CBS: ‘Controversial’ Miss California May Lose Crown

Harry Smith and Lisa Bloom, CBS At the top of Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on the possibility of Miss California, Carrie Prejean, losing her crown over some racy photos: "And will Carrie lose her crown? Suggestive photos of the already controversial Miss California hit the internet. Are they a deal-breaker?" Later co-host Harry Smith similarly declared: "More hot water for Miss California. Millions heard her pageant answer, controversy that ensued about that. And now she may be adding the word 'former' to her title. We'll tell you why."

Prejean became "controversial" when she expressed her opposition to gay marriage while responding to a question from Miss USA pageant judge and liberal gay blogger, Perez Hilton. On April 21, the Early Show gave Hilton the opportunity to continue to attack Prejean, while failing call him out on vulgar insults he used against the beauty contestant. On May 1, Rodriguez went after Prejean for reportedly getting breast implants paid for by pageant organizers: "...this time it isn't about her views on gay marriage, but rather, about her figure...She said those were her real feelings. But now it appears something about Carrie Prejean may not be so real."

On Wednesday, Harry Smith began the latest CBS story attacking Prejean by exclaiming: "More trouble for Miss California. She already made waves when she was at the Miss USA pageant. Now she could lose her crown all together." Correspondent Ben Tracy reported: "CBS News has learned that Miss California USA officials are considering stripping Carrie Prejean of her title. They say she may have violated her contract by posing semi-nude when she worked as a teenage model and also by working, without pageant permission, for a group opposed to gay marriage." Tracy later cited Prejean’s response: "Prejean says the fallout over her remarks has made her the victim of, quote, ‘intimidation tactics that seek to undermine my reputation.’" With its slanted reporting on the issue, the Early Show has certainly been a part of those "intimidation tactics."

Following Tracy’s report, Smith spoke with CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom, who went line by line through Prejean’s Miss California contract. Smith asked: "So can she lose her crown?...Does the pageant have a stiletto heeled leg to stand on?" Bloom replied: "They've got her cold, Harry, if they want to fire her, they can fire her. I've taken a close look at her employment contract, so let's go through it." If only CBS had done this much investigative journalism on Barack Obama when he was running for president.

While Bloom’s legal reasoning was sound, based on the exact wording of the contract, there was no discussion of whether or not the unusually intense scrutiny of Prejean was fair or if that scrutiny was based on her gay marriage views. Instead, Smith concluded the segment by saying to Bloom: "Talk about due diligence. You did you your homework, I'm impressed."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:13AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: And will Carrie lose her crown? Suggestive photos of the already controversial Miss California hit the internet. Are they a deal-breaker?

7:30AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: More hot water for Miss California. Millions heard her pageant answer, controversy that ensued about that. And now she may be adding the word 'former' to her title. We'll tell you why.

7:36AM TEASE:

SMITH: Alright, here's my question. Could you name the woman who won the Miss USA contest?

RODRIGUEZ: I don't even remember what state she's from.

SMITH: Exactly right, because the one that got all the publicity was Miss California. We're going to tell you why she, that -- Carrie Prejean – may be stripped of that title as well. When we come back.

7:39AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: More trouble for Miss California. She already made waves when she was at the Miss USA pageant. Now she could lose her crown all together. CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Miss California, Carrie Prejean.

BEN TRACY: CBS News has learned that Miss California USA officials are considering stripping Carrie Prejean of her title. They say she may have violated her contract by posing semi-nude when she worked as a teenage model and also by working, without pageant permission, for a group opposed to gay marriage.

CARRIE PREJEAN: 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-

TRACY: Prejean says the fallout over her remarks has made her the victim of, quote, 'intimidation tactics that seek to undermine my reputation.' As for the photo, she says it was taken when she was just 17. Pageant officials say it may have been much more recent than that. And that may be enough to crown her the former Miss California USA. Ben Tracy, CBS News, Los Angeles.

SMITH: So can she lose her crown? Lisa Bloom is a CBS News legal analyst. Good morning.

LISA BLOOM: Good morning.

SMITH: Does the pageant have a stiletto heeled leg to stand on? Sorry.

BLOOM: They've got her cold, Harry, if they want to fire her, they can fire her. I've taken a close look at her employment contract, so let's go through it.

SMITH: Alright.

BLOOM: Because we don't know exactly when those pictures were taken, so-

SMITH: She says she was 17 when it happened.

BLOOM: So, if they were taken before or after, it really doesn't matter. First, 9-a of the contract looks back in time. And she signed this and she promised -- she said this, 'I represent that at all times prior to the date of this agreement,' and then let's skip down to that she did not allow herself 'to be photographed in a state of partial or total nudity-

SMITH: Do you think she-

BLOOM: -or in a lewd or suggestive manner,' that would be 'a violation of this provision.'

SMITH: People sign contracts all the time.

BLOOM: Yes.

SMITH: They don't know what's in them.

BLOOM: Well-

SMITH: Do you think she knew?

BLOOM: I think because of all the prior scandals of other Miss America's and pageant holders with nude photos, she probably did. Now, she had to check a box after this, 'true.' She could have checked a 'false' and given an explanation.

SMITH: Oh, wow.

BLOOM: And the contract said you won't necessarily be fired, you won't necessarily be disqualified, if you explain. The most important thing to them was truthfulness and they said that she could lose her crown for that lack of truthfulness.

SMITH: Right.

BLOOM: Now, what about going forward? What about after she gets the crown, if then she posed for the photos? Because we don't know when they were taken, they've got that covered in the contract, too, believe me.

SMITH: Too? Wow, they really have their bases covered.

BLOOM: So, paragraph 9-b, 'if I am selected as state pageant holder,' and then it goes on to say 'I acknowledge that, blah, blah, blah,' here's the important part, she did not permit herself 'to be photographed in a state of partial or total nudity or in a lewd, compromising manner.'

SMITH: So It doesn't matter whether it happened currently or if it happened in the ancient past-

BLOOM: That's right, they've got-

SMITH: -and she even signed the box.

BLOOM: That's right, they've got a paragraph looking back, a paragraph looking forward. And, now let's say her attorneys say, 'well, partial nudity, that's a little bit vague,' after all, the one photo that we have seen she's covered and really nothing lewd is revealed in that photo because of the angle and her arms, well, the contract says, Harry, that the pageant is the one who decides and they have the ultimate authority in this matter.

SMITH: Alright, Lisa Bloom, thanks so much.

BLOOM: Thank you.

SMITH: Talk about due diligence. You did you your homework, I'm impressed.

BLOOM: Oops.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC