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Posted at 04:03 PM ET, 12/18/2012

Donald Trump’s Miss Universe Organization wins $5 million in legal battle against contestant who called Miss USA pageant ‘rigged’

On the eve of the Miss Universe pageant, Donald Trump’s Miss Universe Organization announced it had won the legal fight against Sheena Monnin, the former Miss USA contestant who claimed the pageant was fixed.
Donald Trump (© Alberto Lowe / Reuters - REUTERS)

A judge in a private abritration in New York awarded the Miss Universe Organization $5 million in damages, calling Monnin’s statements “defamatory” and said they were “harmful” to the organization’s reputation.

Back in June, Monnin, who won the Miss Pennsylvania pageant, quit the competition after she wrote a Facebook post in which she said the show was “rigged.” Monnin said she saw another competitor correctly recite the names of the Top 5 finalists in the Miss USA competition before they were announced. The post was picked up by many media outlets, and the “Today” show had her on for an interview (“Today” airs on NBC, which co-owns the Miss Universe Organization with Trump.)

“When the names were called out in the order that she said she saw them on the list, that’s just too coincidental to not be true,’’ Monnin told Ann Curry during the “Today” appearance.

Former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin (Isaac Brekken - GETTY IMAGES)
Trump denied the claims, and responded that the franchise’s voting process is Ernst & Young-certified. He also almost immediately announced his intention — also during an interview on the “Today” show — to bring legal action against Monnin, and later filed an arbitration action. Trump suggested Monnin was angry because she lost the pageant, and also offered that she resigned because the organization had decided to allow transgender contestants to compete for the crown for the first time — pageant officials released an e-mail in which Monnin had written, “I refuse to be part of a pageant system that has so far and so completely removed itself from its foundational principles as to allow and support natural born males to compete in it.”

Monnin said during the “Today” interview that she quit for a “myriad” of reasons, and added she was “prepared to continue to pursue the truth” about the pageant.

In a statement Tuesday, Trump said, “We cannot allow a disgruntled contestant to make false and reckless statements which are damaging to many people who have devoted their hearts and souls to the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageant systems.”

Monnin’s attorney has not responded to requests for comment.

The date on the arbitration award is Dec. 10 — but the news was announced shortly before the Miss Universe Pageant airs on NBC Wednesday night.

By  |  04:03 PM ET, 12/18/2012

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