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Miss Universe pageant fights back on rigging claim

Associated Press Modified: June 8, 2012 at 9:31 pm •  Published: June 8, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Miss Universe Organization says a former contestant should be made to pay for her "defamatory" claims that this year's Miss USA pageant was a sham.

The New York-based organization made a filing with a dispute resolution company over the former Miss Pennsylvania USA's assertion that another contestant spotted the list of finalists on a planning sheet hours before the event was even held Sunday, its lawyer Scott Balber said Friday.

A statement from the organization said it was seeking compensation for her "ongoing defamatory statements," but Balber wouldn't say how much money the Miss Universe Organization was seeking.

The pageant also released a statement from Miss Florida USA — the contestant Sheena Monnin claims saw the list — in which she disputes Miss Pennsylvania's version of the events that prompted her to step down.

Monnin gave up her crown Monday, claiming in a Facebook post that the pageant had been rigged, with the top five finishers selected before the show was broadcast Sunday night from Las Vegas. Pageant organizers immediately denied Monnin's allegation and claimed she had actually stepped down because she disagreed with the pageant's decision to allow transgender contestants.

Earlier Friday, Monnin told NBC's "Today" show that she was standing by her claim that Miss Florida USA confided in her that she'd seen a list of finalists Sunday morning.

"I know what I heard, and I know what I in turn witnessed come true based on what the contestant said she saw," Monnin said.

Monnin claimed Miss Florida USA Karina Brez named the top five contestants in the same order they were called during the broadcast.

"That's just too coincidental to not be true," she said.

But a statement released Friday by Brez disputes Monnin's account, saying Brez was only making a joke about a list of contestants that she saw.

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