Back in 2012, beauty contestant Sheena Monnin, then Miss Pennsylvania, was competing in the Miss USA pageant, a Donald Trump event. Monnin made statements causing the Miss USA competition of being rigged. Trump vowed to sue.
Monnin’s statements were based initially off something she says another contestant, Karina Brez – Miss Florida – told her. Monnin claims that Brez said she had seen the names of the top 5 contestants written on a paper, in the order they eventually placed, before the competition. Brez later recanted, saying she was only joking. But Monnin went public with her accusation. She wrote on her Facebook page that the pageant was “fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent and in many ways trashy.”
Trump event organizers fired back with both barrels, turning the whole thing a headline-grabbing scandal.
The case went before arbitration. Arbitrators said that Monnin had no facts to back up her accusations, and that she was therefore guilty of defamation. They ordered her to pay Trump and the Miss Universe Organization – which also runs Miss USA – $5 million. Miss Universe said that Monnin’s statements had cost them $5 million in sponsorship money for 2013.
Monnin vowed to fight on.
One piece of evidence that Monnin cited is a clause in her contract with Miss Universe that she felt back up her claims. She posted to her Facebook support page:
“When I stated my opinion that the Miss USA pageant was rigged, I was not aware of the clause in the Miss USA contract which says that the Miss Universe Organization, Donald Trump, and others have the legal right to choose the top five and the winner. By their own words, the Miss Universe Organization’s contract proves the plausibility of my statements.”
The Miss Universe Organization, while admitting that their contract does contain the clause Monnin refers to, says that they have never invoked that clause.
Monnin appealed the decision of the arbitrator. However, a judge has now found that she produced no clear evidence that the 2012 competition was rigged, only that there may have been the potential to rig it. The arbitrator’s judgment stands, and Monnin is now ordered to pay the $5 million.