Baton Rouge to fight for its crowning moment amid pageant scandal
BATON ROUGE - Hours after NBC announced it was not going to broadcast this year's Miss USA pageant, city leaders closest to the production remained mostly tight-lipped about the situation while others were discussing their frustrations over the ordeal.
"We miss out on... exposure," councilman John Delgado said in an interview for WBRZ News 2 at 10:00 Monday. "[We lose] the national TV exposure that the pageant provides to the city of Baton Rouge."
Shortly after lunch Monday, NBC said it was ending its relationship with Donald Trump, the owner of the pageant, after Trump made remarks many found offensive in a campaign speech. Trump, who is running for president, discussed the ongoing border issue and made comments insinuating illegal immigrants were into drugs and raped women.
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems," Trump said in his presentation. "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."
Public events for the Miss USA contestants begin Wednesday. Among their scheduled appearances this week, is a stop at the Jefferson Highway location of City Pork where owner Stephen Hightower told WBRZ reporter Brittany Weiss, the ordeal is awkward.
"What can't get lost is that these ladies have worked their whole lives to get to this point and it is still a showcase for Baton Rouge and we really hope everything genuinely does get worked out."
Until things do get worked out, or more is revealed, the city's top executive won't comment.
"There will be no comment from our office until we hear whether this matter can be resolved," Mayor Kip Holden's office said in a prepared statement Monday.
The city and its tourism partners planned to spend just more than $500,000 on the event. Delgado said there are contracts in place, but believes the one the city had with producers is not specific enough to get a refund.
"It doesn't necessarily say that it has to be broadcast on NBC, whether it has to be on a particular station, just that they have to put on the pageant," he said.
Visit Baton Rouge, the tourism promoters for the city, did not respond to request for comment as of this post.
The state's tourism department, which also put up some of the near half-million dollars for Miss USA said it had not handed out its portion of money yet.
"We are evaluating the situation as it unfolds," Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said. "I will consult with the Miss Universe organization to determine to what extent we are involved moving forward. I hope to resolve this in a way that best showcases the unique cultural experiences available in Baton Rouge and Louisiana, while still spotlighting the contestants and all they've achieved to reach this level," he said.
The pageant is set for Sunday, July 12 at the River Center.
Trump said he will not back down from his controversial statements.
"If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court. Furthermore, they will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be," Trump said Monday.
"We are disheartened by recent events but the show will go on," the Miss USA pageant said in a news release late Monday night. Read the entire statement from Miss USA here.
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