- (Photo: AP Images / Bebeto Matthews, File)
Miss California USA Carrie Prejean has been fired for not upholding her contractual duties, pageant officials and owner Donald Trump announced in a statement Wednesday.
The left-field announcement comes just one month after Trump, who owns the Miss Universe franchise, appeared with Prejean in a press conference and said the 22-year-old beauty queen could keep her crown amid a strong wave of criticism from gay marriage supporters.
Prejean had made headlines since the Miss USA pageant in April, when she famously said she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman in response to a question asked by celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton.
On Wednesday, however, Keith Lewis, executive director of Miss California USA, emphasized in the statement that the decision to fire Prejean was strictly based on her failure to fulfill obligations outlined in her contract and not based on her views on gay marriage.
"This was a decision based solely on contract violations including Ms. Prejean's unwillingness to make appearances on behalf of the Miss California USA organization," said Lewis.
"After our press conference in New York we had hoped we would be able to forge a better working relationship ," he stated. "However, since that time it has become abundantly clear that Carrie is unwilling to fulfill her obligations under our contract and work together."
Trump, who had earlier commended Prejean for giving an "honorable answer" in response to the gay marriage question and had defended her appearance in racy photos that surfaced, gave the nod for her termination on Wednesday.
"I told Carrie she needed to get back to work and honor her contract with the Miss California USA Organization and I gave her the opportunity to do so," Trump said in the statement.
"Unfortunately it just doesn't look like it is going to happen and I offered Keith my full support in making this decision," said real estate mogul. "Carrie is a beautiful young woman and I wish her well as she pursues her other interests."
Shortly after the announcements, Prejean, who was first runner-up in the Miss USA competition, said was "shocked" by the news. According to celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com, Prejean said she felt she has been more than cooperative with pageant officials.
"What's behind this I think is a political debate," Prejean told TMZ.com over the phone. "They don't agree with the stance that I took [on Prop 8]. Shanna [Moakler] is trying to bash me. They don't like me. From day one they wanted me out and they got what they wanted."
National Organization for Marriage, which had ran a pro-traditional marriage ad featuring a clip of Prejean's answer, was also skeptical that Prejean's firing was unrelated to her gay marriage answer.
"Hollywood hates Carrie ... and now they are doing what they wanted to do from day one: Get rid of Carrie," Brian Brown, executive director for NOM, stated.
"This cover story about a contract dispute doesn’t pass the smell test," he continued. "Americans aren’t fooled that easily. God knows, and we know, the truth about Carrie: She’s a young woman of great beauty who chose truth over the glittering tiara that Hollywood offers.
"Of course they will try to punish her, but we know she will be fine in the end, because her values are in the right place," he added.
NOM president Maggie Gallagher, meanwhile, offered these words to Prejean: "Congratulations."
Despite the firing, "Carrie will be free to define her own mission and message from now on," stated Gallagher, whose organization has been airing an ad featuring Prejean’s widely-known response.
After the ad aired, the Miss Universe Organization said it sent a cease-and-desist letter to NOM claiming the clip of Prejean used in the ad was an unauthorized use of copyrighted material from the 2009 Miss USA television program.
Although Prejean had attracted a bandwagon of critics for her marriage answer, she was celebrated for taking a stand for her beliefs by Christian pro-family groups, many of which gave her the platform to their audiences.
But while many Christian conservatives rose to her defense, some cautioned against ushering her into being the "new family values spokeswoman," noting that photos of her posing topless (but unexposed) would send a contradictory message.
"Prejean's pictures are the kind that normally would elicit disapproval from pro-family groups," Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of Psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, had told The Christian Post.
"However, some groups (Dove Awards, Liberty University, Values Voters Summit, NOM) have given her a platform simply because she said she believes marriage between a man and a woman, apparently discounting the harm to family values from her risqué modeling work," he said.
In his blog, Throckmorton wrote, "[U]nless religious conservatives have some kind of answer to our girls about how they can lionize a Miss USA contestant and stress modesty at the same time, I do not see the virtue in giving her the platform.”
During the Las Vegas pageant, openly gay gossip blogger Perez Hilton had asked Prejean whether every state should follow Vermont's recent move to legalize same-sex marriage.
In response, the Southern Califonria beauty queen said that "in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised," she added.
In an interview after the pageant with entertainment host Billy Bush, Prejean said thought her answer did cost her the crown – a conclusion that most have come to considering her first-runner-up placement.
According to Wednesday's announcement, Miss Malibu Tami Farrell, the runner-up to Miss California USA ,will take over Prejean's position. The Miss California USA's Web site was updated on Wednesday with a photo banner reading, "Congratulations! The New Miss California USA 2009: Tami Farrell."
The next Miss California will be determined on November 22 at a competition held in Palm Springs.