Real estate mogul and reality TV regular Donald Trump has been awarded $5 million after emerging triumphant from a lengthy legal battle against a Miss USA hopeful who had branded the pageant "fraudulent" and "trashy".
Sheena Monnin resigned from her post as Miss Pennsylvania in June after claims a fellow contestant had seen a list containing the top five winners before they were officially announced, and she blasted the contest as "fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent and in many ways trashy".
Trump, who co-owns the pageant with NBC Universal, immediately filed suit on behalf of the Miss Universe Organization in New York and last week he was awarded $5 million in damages by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz.
According to editors at New York Post gossip colum Page Six, Judge Katz said, "The method in which the Miss USA Pageant is judged... precludes any reasonable possibility that the judging was rigged," adding that Monnin's "defamatory" statements were "false" and "showed a reckless disregard" for the truth.
Speaking after the ruling, Trump says, "We cannot allow a disgruntled contestant to make false and reckless statements which are damaging to the many people who have devoted their hearts and souls to the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageant systems. She (Monnin) was angry that she lost, she went on the Today show and she said really bad stuff.
"You can't rig the celebrity judges. Ernst & Young tabulate the results, and they were unbelievably upset about her comments. Going to arbitration was the appropriate action to take under the circumstances, and while I feel very badly for Sheena, she did the wrong thing. She was really nasty, and we had no choice. It is an expensive lesson for her."
Olivia Culpo went on to win the USA pageant, and will compete in the Miss Universe contest on Wednesday.