Media ignore falsehood in Miss California's same-sex marriage response

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Numerous media figures have suggested that Carrie Prejean lost the Miss USA pageant because of the "honesty" of her response to a question about same-sex marriage. But the suggestion that Prejean was merely giving her opinion ignores a factual falsehood in Prejean's response.

Following Carrie Prejean's first runner-up finish at the 2009 Miss USA pageant, numerous media figures have claimed that Prejean, Miss California, did not win because she "supports traditional marriage" and suggested that she was punished for giving "an honest answer." For instance, during the April 21 edition of CNN's No Bias, No Bull, CNN contributor Roland Martin asserted: "I still can't get over Miss California getting raked over the coals for giving an honest answer to a direct question. She doesn't believe in same-sex marriage, and she said so. And it may have cost her the Miss USA crown." But in asserting that Prejean was merely giving her opinion, these media figures ignore a factual falsehood in Prejean's response.

During the pageant, when asked by pageant judge Perez Hilton whether states should legalize same-sex marriage, Prejean responded: "Well, 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." Prejean continued: "And, you know what? In my country, and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman." However, contrary to Prejean's claim that "Americans are able to choose one or the other," only a handful of states have legalized same-sex marriage or recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other states.

By contrast, on the April 20 edition of No Bias, No Bull, correspondent Erica Hill stated that "we have to look at the facts of the question, and some of the facts in her answer. Maybe that's more the issue here, is she said it's great that in America we have a choice, but yet that choice is only available in five states." Hill added that discussion of the controversy "should be more about whether or not the facts in the answer were accurate":

HILL: But, also, we have to look at the facts of the question, and some of the facts in her answer. Maybe that's more the issue here, is she said it's great that in America we have a choice, but yet that choice is only available in five states. So, perhaps it should be more about whether or not the facts in the answer were accurate, and whether or not it was a coherent answer, as someone who you would want representing the country, not necessarily the opinion. Those are some of the questions that the pageant would have to answer.

Other media also suggested that Prejean was punished for her opinion, without noting the inaccuracy in her response. For example:

  • During the April 20 edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked: "Did her gay marriage answer cost her the crown?" Fox News correspondent Courtney Friel later asserted: "I've known Carrie Prejean for a couple of years now, and she was just really, really stuck in her convictions that she wanted to, you know, get that answer out, that God really tested her faith and her character by giving her that question that she had to answer in front of millions and millions of people. And she's glad she did it honest." Friel continued: "Perez asked for an opinion. He gave it back to her."
  • During the April 21 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly repeatedly discussed the controversy, asserting, "It looks like Miss California lost the Miss USA pageant because she supports traditional marriage," and, "21-year-old Carrie Prejean may have lost the Miss USA contest because she supports traditional marriage."
  • In an interview with Prejean during the April 21 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity asked, "If they're asking for an honest answer -- I mean, did you have to be dishonest or politically -- ?" Hannity went on to comment: "[T]here's a lot of people cheering you tonight that you stood on your principles, that you put the principles above winning." Later during the "Great American Panel" segment, Fortune magazine's Nina Easton claimed that "it's a freedom of speech question," adding: "The level of abuse that we saw here -- that we saw over Proposition 8 in California, is you're not allowed to express a different view."
  • During the April 21 edition of No Bias, No Bull, Martin commented: "Now, look, I'm trying to figure out, what's the big deal with Miss California's answer to a question about same-sex marriage? Of course, she was asked, she answered. Miss California, Carrie Prejean, gave her honest opinion. So, is there no room for her honesty anymore?"
  • During the April 21 edition his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said of the controversy: "Whether it's torture, gay marriage, or global warming, we need to protect the right to speak one's mind freely. Is this America or Soviet Russia? Right now, you can only say whatever you want -- I mean, as long as it's the politically correct point of view. This doesn't bode well for America."

From the April 20 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: Miss California is in the hot seat, big time. She answered a question at last night's Miss USA pageant that has set many on fire. It is her answer to a question about gay marriage from Perez Hilton, a judge in the pageant and a celebrity blogger.

[begin video clip]

HILTON: Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?

PREJEAN: Well, 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.

And, you know what? In my country, and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think that it should be -- between a man and a woman. Thank you.

BILLY BUSH (host): Thank you very much.

[end video clip]

VAN SUSTEREN: Perez Hilton quickly attacked Miss California on his blog.

[begin video clip]

HILTON: Let me explain to you: She lost, not because she doesn't believe in gay marriage, Miss California lost because she's a dumb [beep], OK?

[...]

HILTON: Miss California, with half a brain, I would have said: "Hmm, Perez, that's a great question. That's a very hot topic in our country right now, and I think that that is a question that each state should decide for themselves, because that's how our forefathers designed our government, you know. The states rule themselves, and then there's certain laws, which are federal."

[end video clip]

VAN SUSTEREN: Miss California was first runner-up, or is first runner-up in the contest, and the buzz tonight: Did her gay marriage answer cost her the crown?

Fox's Courtney Friel joins us live. Courtney knows Miss California, and she's spoken to her since the competition.

Good evening, Courtney. And what did Miss California have to say?

FRIEL: Hi, Greta. Yeah, I've known Carrie Prejean for a couple of years now, and she was just really, really stuck in her convictions that she wanted to, you know, get that answer out, that God really tested her faith and her character by giving her that question that she had to answer in front of millions and millions of people. And she's glad she did it honest.

Perez asked for an opinion. He gave it back to her.

From the April 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: All right. Directly ahead: It looks like Miss California lost the Miss USA pageant because she supports traditional marriage?

[...]

O'REILLY: Factor follow-up segment tonight: As we reported last night, 21-year-old Carrie Prejean may have lost the Miss USA contest because she supports traditional marriage.

From the April 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: What -- if he's going to ask a question, it shouldn't be based on what your answer is. If they're asking for an honest answer -- I mean, did you have to be dishonest or politically --

PREJEAN: That's how I've always -- I've been doing pageants since I was 17 years old, and I've always been told that you're not judged on what you say, but how you say it.

HANNITY: Yeah.

PREJEAN: And they should never judge you on your opinion. And I think with a question like that that's so controversial, either way, I was either going to stay true to myself and stay true to my beliefs and my faith and stay strong with it, or I was going to give into him and say --

HANNITY: Did you -- did you think at that moment that -- all right, this -- I know you said at one point that, at that moment, you knew that that was a controversial question, and you actually went on to say that you felt God was testing your character and faith.

PREJEAN: I do. At that moment, I was getting ready to answer my question, and I started saying I think that Americans, you know, we have the right to choose. But then something inside of me said, "Carrie, stand up for what you believe in and say how -- what you feel and represent the majority of California. You're Miss California. The majority of voters believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman." And -- and --

HANNITY: You have also said, and a lot of other people believe it, as well -- and I believe it also, based on looking over how the judging goes on -- that if you had been given another question, you would have won this competition.

PREJEAN: I can't tell you how many times I've heard that.

[...]

HANNITY: I think this is -- there's a lot of people cheering you tonight that you stood on your principles, that you put the principles above winning.

PREJEAN: Yeah.

HANNITY: And not enough people do that. And I admire you a lot for it.

PREJEAN: Thank you very much.

HANNITY: It's very nice to meet you.

[...]

HANNITY: All right. Let's start with -- we just had on Miss California, the Miss USA contest. And she gives an honest answer in a very benign way.

Nina, I think the way Perez Hilton -- the rant, A, B, C -- horrible words used against this poor girl for taking a view the majority of Americans have.

EASTON: I'm sorry, Sean. As I was watching this, I was thinking, who else has the same view? Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton -- Barack Obama supports civil unions. He doesn't support gay marriage. You know, it's like -- and he didn't -- he didn't have to undergo the same level of abuse that she underwent. I mean, the, you know, the level of abuse that was thrown at her.

Now, the good news for her is that she's going to be -- her future is far more bright now --

JOE PISCOPO (actor): In this building.

EASTON: -- politically, in this business --

PISCOPO: Right here in this building.

EASTON: -- than ever being just, you know, Miss USA. She's got a great political future ahead of her.

HANNITY: But it's not just that. Joe, look, in all seriousness, we do have some political disagreements.

PISCOPO: Yeah.

HANNITY: So what? She was asked a question, and unlike some of these past pageants, what do you think about this? "Well, I want to solve world peace, and I want to -- and homelessness." She gave an honest answer --

PISCOPO: Yeah. Yeah.

HANNITY: -- that many Americans disagree with. For her to be treated this way is beyond the pale, and this guy owes her an apology.

PISCOPO: You're right. And I'm upset at you for not inviting me over when you interviewed her. I walk in, my buddy, Sean, who I love -- you've got Miss California and Mr. New Jersey. Come on, it's a perfect setup --

HANNITY: You know --

PISCOPO: -- and he doesn't call me. When I come in, where'd she go? What happened? I'm the old guy, Sean. I need all the help I can get.

HANNITY: Listen, we purposely -- I let her go out the other exit. I mean, you know [inaudible].

PISCOPO: But you're right, you know, but it was -- the question was forced. It was inappropriate, I thought. And -- but I have to tell you, I'm anti-marriage, so I'm the wrong guy to talk to.

HANNITY: You are in the middle of a divorce.

PISCOPO: [Unintelligible] I'm not talking about gay -- I love -- I love the gay community, a big proponent of the gay community. Don't get married, please. Just have fun. Just -- no -- [unintelligible] should be upset about.

HANNITY: What do you think?

BRAD BLAKEMAN (Republican strategist): Look, she's not running for governor; she's not running for senator. She was there in a beauty pageant. She's a beauty queen, not a drama queen like the person who asked her the question and set her up.

I think she did a beautiful job. She spoke from the heart. As Nina pointed out, this is what America believes. Why is she being castigated by a few for the beliefs of many?

HANNITY: Now, I just had a chance to spend some time with her and interview her. You know what I liked the most? Is she knew the answer that people would probably want to hear, that would win her the pageant, and she didn't give that answer. She put her values, her principles, her faith, ahead of her ambition.

And I'm thinking, what a great role model, because so many kids and so many people in life, they're pressured to take positions or do things because that's what society tells us to do.

EASTON: Well, it's -- I mean, it's a freedom of speech question. And, you know, I don't happen to agree with her, but you know what? The level of abuse that we saw here -- that we saw over Proposition 8 in California, is you're not allowed to express a different view.

BLAKEMAN: And also --

EASTON: Or you're racist or --

BLAKEMAN: -- it was directed to her personally: What are your views? Not what -- do you speak for millions of other people. How do you feel? That was the question, and that's what it was asked, and that's what she delivered.

HANNITY: Listen, I agree --

EASTON: And I also saw --

HANNITY: -- I agree with her.

EASTON: I saw a commentator --

BLAKEMAN: I do, too.

EASTON: -- there was a commentator who insisted that, well, OK, that's fine, that if Barack Obama supports -- doesn't support gay marriage, but, you know, you should have just said, "Leave the question to the states."

It's like, I'm sorry, she's -- you know, she's a Miss America -- Miss USA contestant.

HANNITY: Yeah, I mean --

EASTON: What do you expect her to say?

HANNITY: No, but she's a very bright young -- young lady. And Joe, look, I just think the left needs to stand up and say, you know what? This is still America. You're still entitled to your views. And you ought not be excoriated and called these names by the judge, of all people, in this -- in this contest.

From the April 21 edition of CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull:

MARTIN: Plus, I still can't get over Miss California getting raked over the coals for giving an honest answer to a direct question. She doesn't believe in same-sex marriage, and she said so. And it may have cost her the Miss USA crown.

[...]

MARTIN: All right, folks, I'm surrounded by a bunch of women tonight -- Jessica Yellin, Lisa Bloom, Erica Hill, and Jane Velez-Mitchell here.

Now, look, I'm trying to figure out, what's the big deal with Miss California's answer to a question about same-sex marriage? Of course, she was asked, she answered. Miss California, Carrie Prejean, gave her honest opinion. So, is there no room for her honesty anymore?

From the April 21 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Now, in a completely unrelated story, Miss California believes her answer to a question about gay marriage may have cost her the Miss USA crown. She said she's proud that she stuck to her beliefs and wouldn't change her response.

Wait a minute, I just realize -- well, they do have something in common the last two stories. It's weird. Whether it's torture, gay marriage, or global warming, we need to protect the right to speak one's mind freely. Is this America or Soviet Russia? Right now, you can only say whatever you want -- I mean, as long as it's the politically correct point of view. This doesn't bode well for America.

From the April 20 edition of CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull:

JANELL SNOWDEN (host, VH1 News): The job of Miss America pageant, or contestant, is to smile, look pretty, and give diplomatic answers that do not offend vast sectors of the population -- to give safe answers, essentially. She did not give a safe answer.

MARTIN: Well, she gave an honest one. Erica, was it an appropriate question to ask?

HILL: Well, you know, it's an interesting question, but I think Janell raises an interesting point, too, in that when you're looking at it, I don't know if the answer is -- if the question is so much is it an appropriate question to ask, but maybe, did she do her job in the answer? As Janell said, should she have been more diplomatic? Possibly.

But, also, we have to look at the facts of the question, and some of the facts in her answer. Maybe that's more the issue here, is she said it's great that in America we have a choice, but yet that choice is only available in five states. So, perhaps it should be more about whether or not the facts in the answer were accurate, and whether or not it was a coherent answer, as someone who you would want representing the country, not necessarily the opinion. Those are some of the questions that the pageant would have to answer.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT
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