Former Miss Pa. backs pageant-fixing accusation; wants lie detector test

By Sally Wiggin, Host of Chronicle, swiggin@hearst.com
Published On: Jan 29 2013 10:51:31 AM HST

Former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin talks to Channel 4 Action News anchor Sally Wiggin about her accusations that the Miss USA 2012 pageant is rigged, and her subsequent legal battle with Donald Trump.

PITTSBURGH, PA -

When Sheena Monnin entered her first beauty pageant as teenager, she probably never imagined it would one day lead to accusations of pageant fixing and a lawsuit from Miss Universe Organization owner Donald Trump.

She talked to Channel 4 Action News anchor Sally Wiggin about her early days of competing, and why she believes a lie-detector test could clear the air about whether the Miss USA 2012 pageant was fixed.

“I was 17 when I did my very first pageant. I was in the mall shopping and someone approached me and said, ‘You really should give pageantry a try.’ And I never really thought of it before then. I had never even seen a pageant at that point,” said Monnin.

She started by competing in Miss USA preliminary pageants in her native Florida before moving on to Texas and finally Pennsylvania.

“Then, I moved to Pennsylvania. I competed two years here and was first runner-up both times. Then, my last year that I competed, I actually won the title,” said Monnin.

After being crowned Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012, Monnin resigned her state crown in June and accused the Miss Universe Organization of fixing the Miss USA 2012 pageant.

Monnin had alleged that the five finalists had been selected in advance of the pageant's live telecast.

In December, an arbitrator found that the comments from Monnin were false, harmful and malicious, and she was ordered to pay the pageant organization $5 million for defamation.

Wiggin asked Monnin if she wishes she could go back and apologize to event organizers about her comments.

“Apologizing was never part of my mentality whatsoever. When you know what you have experienced and what you have seen, when you know you are standing on truth, then, to me, there’s no backing down from that, there’s no compromising from that,” said Monnin.

Monnin said her allegations stem from a conversation she had the night of the Miss USA pageant with Miss Florida USA Karina Brez.

“She proceeded to tell me at that point that she had seen a list of names on an official piece of paper that said ‘telecast final show,’ and it had the top five contestants already filled in with the winner up there at the top,” said Monnin.

Monnin said she didn’t tell anyone else about the conversation and waited to see how things played out.

“Sure enough, as the night progressed and the top 10 were called out, then the top five were called out, it really was those girls that she said she had seen on this official final telecast show list,” said Monnin.

Brez has denied Monnin’s story during interviews.

“In the first interview, she said that there was never a list and she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. In the second interview, she said, ‘Yes, there was a list,’ and then later on in that interview, she said, ‘I was just joking anyways,’ so she has changed her story three times,” said Monnin.

Monnin said she feels that if everyone would submit to a lie-detector test that would help clear up the matter.

Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump, issued the following statement to Wiggin about the Monnin case: “I personally attempted on 12 separate occasions to contact Ms. Monnin, her father and/or attorney prior to the filing of the arbitration proceeding. No response was ever forthcoming. Mr. Trump additionally offered Ms. Monnin an opportunity to recant her knowingly malicious, defamatory statement about the Miss Universe Pageant. She again failed to respond … facing this significant award, Ms. Monnin now seeks to defend her failures and blame everyone other than herself for her misguided actions.”

Monnin argues that her attorney told her she was not legally bound by arbitration.

“Instead of filing the appropriate paperwork and appealing this, that I wasn’t legally bound to arbitration, my attorney chose not to do that and, as we know now in hindsight, they went forward in arbitration without me, or without my attorney,” she said.

Monnin sought new legal counsel and petitioned the New York district judge in charge of confirming the award for an extension, which she was granted until Feb. 5.

But what if the judge confirms the $5 million award?

“I will pursue my legal options at that point, but I would like to issue a challenge to Donald Trump, (Miss Universe Organization president) Paula Shugart and Karina Brez, former Miss Florida, if they’re willing to take a lie-detector test, each one of them about this issue, I am ready and willing to also take a lie-detector test,” Monnin said.