Do you watch Miss America for the beauty or the politics?
Increasingly, the latter is taking over the celebrated contest for America’s most attractive and talented young women. The politics of this year’s contestants were put under the spotlight – particularly their personal views on President Trump. It’s a sad departure from a program that should showcase the beauty and diversity – including intellectual diversity – of young women across our country.
Cara Mund, a 23-year-old Brown graduate, became the first woman to take home the crown from North Dakota – making history.
The bigger story of the night though was the blatant anti-Trump agenda of the show as demonstrated by the interview questions from the judges.
Singer Jordin Sparks kicked off the questions with of all current events Russian collusion:
Q: There are multiple investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia on the election. Well, did they? You're the jury: guilty or innocent, and please explain your verdict.
A: Right now I'd have to say innocent because not enough information has been revealed. We're still investigating this and I think we should investigate it to its fullest extent. And if we do find the evidence that they have had collusion with Russia, then the justice system should do their due diligence and they should be punished accordingly.
Lund fielded a question from tv host Maria Menounos about the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement:
Q: One hundred ninety five countries signed the Paris Agreement in which each country sets non-binding goals to reduce man-made climate change. The U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement, citing negligible environmental effects and negative economic impact. Good decision? Bad decision? Which is it and why?
A: I do believe it's a bad decision. Once we reject that, we take ourselves out of the negotiation table and that's something that we really need to keep in mind. There is evidence that climate change is existing. So whether you believe it or not, we need to be at that table, and I think it's just a bad decision on behalf of the United States,” she added.
Miss New Jersey was asked about what to do with the Confederate statues, but Miss Texas was given the whopper about the President’s responses following the violent Charlottesville protests:
Q: Last month a demonstration of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and a counter protestor was killed. The president said there was shared blame with "very fine people on both sides." Were there? Tell me yes or no and explain.
A: I think that the white supremacist issue … it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact and making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.
The judges were using the questions as a litmus test for how progressive (or anti-Trump) contestants came across. We wonder what might have happened if a contestant agreed with pulling out of the Paris Accord or said President Trump was right to condemn the violent Antifa protestors?
Sadly, this is not the first pageant to veer political. As my colleague Hadley Heath Manning highlighted last fall, the downside of the Miss USA pageant was the explicitly political nature of the questions chosen. As she explained,
While the interview portion is important — a great opportunity for judges and audience members to hear from the finalists — it's not meant to be a political debate. There are many questions that would inspire critical or creative thinking in these young women without resorting to political issues.
When Americans watches pageants, they are looking at the young women’s grace, appearance, and intelligence not their voting record. The more politics factors into the calculation, the more they become another program that Americans tune out.