Miss California may have lost her shot at becoming Miss USA after expressing her opposition to same-sex marriage but she’s nevertheless emerged as a star.
After getting booed by the beauty pageant crowd and berated by one of the contest judges Sunday, Carrie Prejean is suddenly a conservative sensation, a poster girl for the right who has bloggers, talk show hosts and Republican pols singing her praises.
Prejean’s beauty contest saga began Sunday when competition judge and openly gay blogger Perez Hilton asked her if she supports gay marriage.
“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman,” she responded during the televised event. “No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised.”
Her response wasn’t exactly what Hilton—or the crowd—was expecting. Prejean ultimately finished as the first runner-up in the competition to Miss North Carolina, who drew a less combustible question about taxpayer bailouts. In an interview the next day with NBC “Today Show” host Matt Lauer, Prejean said she knew she wasn’t going to win the moment she answered.
Hilton later said in a video on his blog that Prejean’s answer did not sink her chances of winning, though his disdain for her was unmistakable.
“She lost not because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Miss California lost because she is a dumb [expletive].”
The reaction among conservatives, who embraced Prejean as a martyr for the cause, was equally strong.
An Alabama state legislator introduced a House resolution praising her for speaking out against gay marriage. In a press release, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins stated his “admiration and support” for her and lauded “her fortitude in the face of continued baseless personal attacks.”
“There’s a lot of people cheering you tonight that you stood on your principles, that you put the principles above winning,” Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity told Prejean when she appeared on his television program. “Not enough people do that. And I admire you a lot for it.”
In the right-wing blogosphere, where the consensus was that her opposition to gay marriage cost her the Miss USA title, conservatives depicted Prejean as a role model worth emulating.
“Miss California Carrie Prejean’s act of courage - in the face of tremendous pressure to spout the liberal line - serves as a fine example for young and more seasoned conservative politicians,” wrote Mark Impomeni on the popular RedState blog. “First be true to your beliefs, and let the chips fall where they may. When they do, they should know that conservatives of like mind across the country will stand up for them.”
“I would like to nominate Miss California as the new face of the marriage movement. Much better than mine!” wrote National Organization for Marriage President Maggie Gallagher on National Review’s The Corner.
Prejean has taken full advantage of her newfound stardom, becoming an almost hourly fixture on cable news—and Donald Trump, the owner of the Miss USA contest, has also fuel the story by throwing his weight behind it in an effort to promote the pageant and himself. Trump is scheduled to appear on Fox News’s “O’Reilly Factor” Thursday night to discuss the controversy.
Prejean is slated for another television appearance Thursday night when she attends the Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards and introduces one of the performers at the award show.
She’s also now prominently featured on the website of San Diego Christian College–the school she attended before taking the semester off to prepare for the pageant. The college was founded in 1970 by conservative pastor Tim LaHaye, author of the popular Christian book series “left behind.”
In a write up of the controversy, the website highlights a quote from Prejean in which she said, “I knew there were secular judges, but I felt I needed to express my passion for the Lord.”
College president Paul Ague said it has been “very affirming” to watch the college student “standing up for what she believes.”
“The reaction has been very positive,” he said. “I thought Carrie did a great job.”
Conservative blogger Matt Lewis of Townhall.com concluded that Prejean seems destined to turn up on the campaign trail.
“Aside from the obvious point that this was a travesty of justice and that she is being punished for answering honestly -- and standing up for what she believes in -- how long do you think it will be before Miss. California is out campaigning with a prominent Republican running for office?” he wrote.