A beauty queen who claimed this year's Miss USA contest was fixed has been ordered to pay the pageant organization $5 million US for defamation.
In a decision signed last week, an arbitrator found that the comments from Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin were false, harmful and malicious. Monnin had alleged that the five finalists had been selected in advance of the pageant's live telecast.
'She was a disgruntled contestant who failed to make it past the preliminary competition.' —Theodore Katz, arbitrator
Monnin told the Today show that another Miss USA contestant approached her during the competition, looking very scared, and told her she had just seen a list of the top five contestants.
Though Miss Florida has since said her comments were a joke, Monnin said she believed her after the names were called out in the same order the contestant had seen them on the list.
"That's just too coincidental to not be true," said Monnin.
The arbitrator, Theodore Katz, said Monnin had two motives: "She was a disgruntled contestant who failed to make it past the preliminary competition" and she objected to the pageant's decision to allow transgender contestants. He wrote that the way the contest is judged "precludes any reasonable possibility that the judging was rigged."
Monnin, of Cranberry, Pa., resigned her state title after the pageant. Her allegations on Facebook and NBC's Today show cost the pageant a $5-million fee from a potential 2013 sponsor, Katz said.
Monnin competed for seven years before she won her state title, according to the Miss USA website.
"Being a Miss USA contestant has been the greatest journey of my life!" reads Monnin's profile on the site. "Each day leading to Miss USA is filled with breathtaking anticipation, beautiful moments, incredible opportunities ... and LOTS of excitement!"
Monnin's lawyer, Richard Klineburger III, had no comment on the decision, his office said.
Katz said Monnin agreed to arbitration for any disputes when she became a Miss USA contestant, but he wrote in his decision that she and her lawyer didn't participate in the process and claimed they were not required to do so.
The winner of the Miss USA pageant, Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island, competes Wednesday in the Miss Universe pageant.