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Carrie Prejean

Carrie PrejeanUpdate | 12:28 p.m. And back in New York … At the end of a nearly half-hour ceremony cum press conference, Donald Trump slung a glittery white “Miss California USA” sash across Carrie Prejean. Then they hugged and kissed.

It was a happy ending to what Ms. Prejean and Mr. Trump had described as a traumatic period of “abuse” of her because she had said honestly that she believes marriage should be between one man and one woman. Ms. Prejean noted that both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton share that view.

In a question-and-answer period, Mr. Trump declined to state his own view on same-sex marriage. “This isn’t about me,” he said, to some laughter among the news media.

“Come on, Donald, say it,” Ms. Prejean prodded, but to no avail. He said that gay marriage is a big, complicated issue, and that he understands both sides.

Meanwhile, if Ms. Prejean wants to speak publicly about same-sex marriage in the future, she will have to go through the Miss California USA pageant officials to discuss the platform where she will speak and how she will present her opinion.

“We’re not changing our rules for Carrie,” Keith Lewis, a co-executive director of the California pageant, said in an interview. “We’re bringing her back into compliance with her contract; every appearance is approved by us, every statement is a reflection of us.”

He said that if she is asked about her views, she should answer honestly, but that pageant officials would help her “fine tune” her response so that it “is accommodating to both parties.”

Ms. Prejean said she was “not going to be speaking out” against same-sex marriage but would “stay true to who I am.” She said the publicity about the issue over the last few weeks had not given her any reason to re-think her position.

At the news conference, both Mr. Trump and Ms. Prejean accused Perez Hilton, a gay blogger and judge in the Miss USA pageant who had asked her about same-sex marriage, of self-promotion. But that clearly is not a crime in Mr. Trump’s book; he said he would “love” to have Mr. Hilton back as a judge again, and more or less dismissed the whole controversy as Mr. Hilton just “doing his thing.”

“We’re all doing our thing,” he shrugged.

Ms. Prejean said she forgave Mr. Hilton but said she has not spoken to him. She also spoke emotionally about the importance of standing up for your beliefs.

Update 2 | 11:59 a.m. | Meanwhile in Tehran Just a quick interjection here from Robert Mackey — to point out the very great difference between the spectacle taking place in New York this morning involving Miss California USA and another one in Tehran, where Roxana Saberi, the journalist who was once Miss North Dakota, briefly addressed her supporters and the media today. Elsewhere on our Web site we have video of Ms. Saberi — in the right column of this blog’s home page — and an article on her first public statement since being released from Evin prison yesterday.

Update | 10:40 a.m. She’s safe!

Donald Trump just declared that Carrie Prejean will remain as Miss California USA. He said that she had given an honest answer to a tough question, and that there’s nothing wrong with the pictures of her. “We’re very proud of her,” he said, calling her strong, tough, smart and very beautiful.

Ms. Prejean is now giving a lengthy response. “I would like to thank God for trusting me with this large task and giving me the strength to stand by my beliefs,” she said. She also blasted Perez Hilton for asking her a question that she said was politically charged and hid his own personal agenda.

“I am convinced more than ever of the importance of standing up for your beliefs and convictions,” she declared.

We’ll be back shortly with more from her speech.

The scene, by the way, is taking place in a lower level corner of the Trump Tower, at the bottom of a well of glassy escalators and soaring rosy marble walls. It’s jammed with at least 100 photographers, reporters, videographers, cameramen and sound guys. One TV producer who was here for the final “Apprentice” episode on Sunday night tells us there are way more cameras here for this. Ms. Prejean’s
parents are sitting in the front row.

Scores of people are lining the upper tiers, staring down at the scene as if we are animals in the zoo.
Mr. Trump said the turnout was evidence that Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants had become “so relevant.”

Original Post | 9:34 a.m. Pull up a seat with us here at the Trump Tower while we await the big news of the day — whether Donald Trump will snatch back the tiara from Carrie Prejean, the Miss California USA who does not believe in same-sex marriage. Mr. Trump is to announce his decision at 11 a.m. Eastern time; check back with us then to learn her fate.

Those of you following this saga will immediately notice something different this morning. The stage set has switched overnight from sunny California to the gaudy Trump Tower building in midtown Manhattan. And the star of this show is no longer Ms. Prejean, the runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, but the flamboyant Mr. Trump, who has a knack for getting screen time whenever a juicy melodrama starts churning and drawing cameras (Hello, Rosie!).

How, you may wonder, did we go from “Beach Blanket Bingo” to a morality episode of “The Apprentice”?

Well, in this case, the Donald actually has a legitimate claim to a role. He is a co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization, the parent of the pageants in question. So it falls to him to decide whether Ms. Prejean, 21, of San Diego, gets to keep her Miss California USA tiara.

Of course, there are no rules that say Mr. Trump must announce his decision at an elaborate news conference in front of dozens of cameras at his Fifth Avenue fortress. But that’s the way it works in Trumpland. And so here we sit, jammed between the cameras, waiting for the drum roll. Everyone wants to see if Mr. Trump will utter his signature phrase — “You’re fired!”

Careful viewers will remember that Mr. Trump had the chance in 2006 to lop off the crown of another young beauty queen — and didn’t do it. Tara Conner, who was Miss USA at the time, had supposedly been drinking (she was underage) and hanging out in bars. Mr. Trump let her keep the crown, but sent her to rehab.

Here are a couple of things to consider as he weighs Ms. Prejean’s future. For one thing, he is a Republican, though he hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue. For another, he has called Ms. Prejean “a seriously good-looking woman.” If he dumps her, the tiara — and the spotlight — go back to California. If he keeps her, Ms. Prejean owes him every day of her reign.

While the clock ticks to the big moment, here’s a quick re-cap of the story so far.

At the Miss USA pageant last month, one of the judges — Perez Hilton, a gay blogger — asked Ms. Prejean if she thought that all states should move toward allowing same-sex marriage, to reflect the new law in Vermont.

“I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other, we live in a land that, you can choose, same-sex marriage or opposite marriage,” she said. She then added: “In my country and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

(By the way, 55 percent of registered voters nationwide oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, according to a Quinnipiac poll late last month, while 57 percent support same-sex civil unions. Various polls suggest that support for same-sex marriage is increasing as more states legalize it, but so far, the ranks of the opposed still include President Obama and the vast majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill, not to mention Republicans.)

In any case, Ms. Prejean was not named Miss USA, but runner-up. She said her answer about same-sex marriage cost her the crown, but that it nonetheless reflected her values, and she would not change it if she could.

The whole thing snowballed from there. Mr. Hilton danced in the end zone and trashed Ms. Prejean on his celebrity blog. He told Larry King that he wasn’t criticizing her for her beliefs but for not having given a more inclusive answer.

Ms. Prejean became the instant poster girl for “traditional” marriage, and said she had come under attack for her Christian beliefs.

Then, several pictures of her posing partially nude made their way to the Internet. In them, she was facing a wall with her arms over her chest, wearing underwear.

She made no apology for the pictures.

“I am a Christian and I am a model,” Ms. Prejean said in a statement. “Models pose for pictures including lingerie and swimwear photos. Recent photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid Web site that openly mocks me for my Christian faith.”

In various television interviews, she has said she wants to use her newfound notoriety to campaign for traditional marriage.

Last week, the Miss Universe Organization revealed that it had “sent a cease and desist letter to the National Organization for Marriage regarding the unauthorized use of copyrighted material from the 2009 Miss USA® television program” in this ad featuring Ms. Prejean’s answer:

On Monday, California pageant officials said that she violated her contract by lobbying on behalf of an anti-gay-marriage group and by posing in her underwear (although, as one blogger pointed out, she did not do these activities simultaneously).

The California officials said they did not have the authority to take back Ms. Prejean’s crown, but they pushed her halfway off the runway: they appointed Tami Farrell, her runner-up, as “Beauty of California Ambassador” to fulfill any duties that Ms. Prejean might not be able to carry out. They said Mr. Trump had the final authority, and that moved the ball to his court.

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