May 23, 2010

Pageants & Politics Are an Ugly Mix

 Was Oscar Nunez actually interested in how well Elizabeth Woolard answered his question?
Yogi Berra is probably the last person to come to mind when discussing beauty pageants. After all, it was said he was the only catcher in baseball who got better looking after he put on his mask and that he was a charter member of baseball's "all ugly club."1 But when it comes to the 2010 Miss U.S.A. pageant Yogi's words of wisdom are not only apt but they are a thing of beauty.
"It's deja vu all over again."
For a second year in a row politics has reared its ugly head in the Miss U.S.A. Pageant. Actor Oscar Nunez (best known as a cast member of the NBC show The Office) served as one of the judges in this year's pageant. He questioned Miss Oklahoma Morgan Elizabeth Woolard about Arizona's much maligned and misunderstood immigration law.2
Specifically, Nunez specifically asked Woolward, "Do you think this should be mandated by the state or by the federal government?" To which she replied:
I'm a huge believer in states' rights. I think that's what's so wonderful about America. So I think it's perfectly fine for Arizona to create that law. I'm against illegal immigration but I'm also against racial profiling. So I see both sides of this issue.3
Woolward finished runner-up to Miss Michigan Rima Fakih.
Could it be Carrie Prejean part deux?
Interestingly, the crowd booed Nunez for posing the question rather than Woolward for replying to it. In fact, the crowd mostly cheered Woolward's response. The crowd knew it was a loaded question and didn't like it one bit. Consider the preamble to Nunez's question:
Arizona's new immigration statute authorizes law enforcement authorities to check the citizenship of anyone they believe may be in the country illegally. Now listen to the question before you boo! Critics say this may amount to racial profiling.
Of course, what Nunez neglected to mention is that law enforcement can only check an individual's citizenship status as a result of a "lawful stop, detention or arrest."4 Nunez is perpetrating the myth that authorities in Arizona can arbitrarily, capriciously and wantonly stop people with brown skin and ask them for their identification on the spot.
Nunez also neglected to mention that one of the critics who have argued the Arizona law may amount to racial profiling is none other than Attorney General Eric Holder.5 This is the same Eric Holder who admitted before Congress late last week that he has not read the bill, has not been briefed on it and has only glanced at it.6 If the Attorney General of the United States cannot find the law on the Arizona legislature's webpage, print it out and read it while listening to Jimi Hendrix then why should we expect due diligence from Nunez?7
Unlike Perez Hilton, Nunez hasn't gone on YouTube to call Woolward "a dumb b*tch."8 One can only hope Woolward will not be on the receiving end of the sort of bitter and vitriolic scrutiny that was directed at Carrie Prejean after she told Hilton she believed marriage is between a man and a woman.9
Now I don't have an objection to judges asking pageant contestants questions about the world in which we live. When properly asked such questions give an insight into how well the contestants speak and how well they can think on their feet. Some pageant contestants excel in this area while other pageant contestants do not.10
But when judges ask about specific public matters such as gay marriage and illegal immigration one must ask if these questions are being asked to advance their own agendas rather than to advance the progress of the pageant contestants. If anything these questions might very well be asked to stymie the progress of certain pageant contestants. Was Nunez actually interested in how well Woolward's answered his question? Or was he looking to weed out someone with a politically incorrect opinion?
When questions like this are asked it gives judges opportunities to play favorites. One must wonder if the selection of Rima Fakih, a Muslim (albeit an apparently secular Muslim), was a political statement on the part of the judges.11 I don't deny Fakih is a beautiful woman and might very well be a worthy representative of the Miss U.S.A. pageant.12 But would any of the judges have dared to ask the Lebanese-born Fakih what she thought of Hezbollah?
One can only hope the judges at the 2011 Miss U.S.A. Pageant will refrain from questioning certain contestants as if they were Sarah Palin. But I suspect such restraint will not come to pass. These questions draw attention to the pageant and it would seem that Donald Trump prefers bad publicity than no publicity at all. Yet Trump should know better. Pageants and politics are an ugly mix.

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