Prejean wasn't a conservative talking head overnight. But with sex tapes surfacing, Jacob Bernstein reports the handlers who fueled her rise now see her as retroactive to their cause. Plus, view our gallery of beauty queens gone bad.
Wherever Carrie Prejean goes these days, she always seems to be involved in a lot of stripping. In June, the organizers of Miss California USA stripped the 22-year-old of her title, citing “contract violations” having nothing to do with the nude photos of her that had surfaced after the Miss USA pageant. And then this past week, amid allegations that she took off her clothes on camera and masturbated in eight videos for an ex-boyfriend, Prejean has been stripped of her unofficial title: Miss Conservative America.
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In retrospect, it seems pretty astonishing anyone thought the former beauty queen—who first gained notice when she opposed gay marriage during Miss USA’s question and answer section—should be put up on a soapbox to be the new voice of the “traditional marriage” movement.
Though she was runner-up in the pageant, Prejean was unquestionably the contest’s big winner—her exchange with Perez Hilton, the judge who asked the question, made national news, and her loss quickly developed into a victim narrative. Immediately after the event, Hilton went on YouTube and called Prejean a “dumb bitch.” The vitriol galvanized women and the Christian right, who felt understandably outraged.
Overnight, Prejean became a right wing phenomenon. In addition to appearing at a press conference for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a family values organization that’s opposed to same-sex marriage, she also recorded robocalls for the group. NOM’s president, Maggie Gallagher, even drafted numerous press releases on Prejean’s behalf during her saga with the Miss Universe pageant, and created an ad showcasing Prejean, which ran for months on the homepage of NOM’s website.
Prejean then went on Greta Van Susteran to speak on the issue of “traditional marriage,” though she wasn’t entirely prepared for basic questions about concepts such as civil unions.
“My thought on civil unions?” she stammered. “You know what, Greta? I don’t have the answers to everything. I’m not running for political office. I don’t have the answers to everything, you know, in the world out there.”
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• Watch the 6 Craziest Prejean MomentsOver the next few months, the people from Miss Universe tried all sorts of things to contain the Prejean situation. None of them did much good. Keith Lewis, the head of the Miss California USA pageant, and his deputy, former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, attempted to discredit Prejean’s conservative bona fides by confirming that the beauty queen had gotten breast implants. Of course, they had lent Prejean the money for her silicone upgrade, so that plan backfired. She just became Joe the Plumber with a boob job.
Taking away her title as Miss California USA, which is what they did in June, didn’t go much better. Within seconds, the National Organization for Marriage had put out a statement: “Hollywood hates Carrie. First they abuse her, then they try to get her to recant, then they threw mud, and now they are doing what they wanted to do from day one: Get rid of Carrie.”
Days before news of the first sex tape hit last week, Prejean was out promoting her new memoir from Regnery Books, a conservative publishing house whose authors include Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchanan, and Chuck Norris.
This was the book she was promoting last week when she had a meltdown on Larry King Live when King asked her why she’d agreed to drop her lawsuit against Miss USA. (Several sources close to the settlement say the existence of sex tapes played a role). Prejean called the question “inappropriate” so he went to a caller, at which point the former beauty queen pulled off her mike and threatened to walk off the show. The reason, she later said, was that King and her representatives had an agreement not to go to callers. This strategy plays well with the Republican base—blame the media—but it doesn’t appear to be true. Both a spokesperson for the show and well-placed sources at CNN tell The Daily Beast that there was no such agreement in place.
On Monday, days after the King appearance, a gay group called Californians Against Hate sent out a press release claiming that Prejean had been scrubbed from the NOM’s website. Certainly, none of those puffy press releases could be found in its online press room. The ad they’d put up of her? Gone as well, though you can still find all of it online.
Maggie Gallagher declined comment for this article, though she told Lifesitenews.com, a Pro-Life website: “Seven million Californians voted for Prop 8. I have no doubt that quite a few of them are people who committed sexual sins of various kinds.” Then she added: “Carrie has never worked for the National Organization for Marriage.”
What else would you expect Gallagher to do? With her transition to amateur pornographer, Prejean had become radioactive—the latest in a string of right-wing casting choices that looked smart at the onset, then went awry when it turned out the new mascot for the evangelical base wasn’t qualified (or ready) for the part she’d been asked to play.
Perhaps that’s why Prejean has become a liability for Charles LiMandri, NOM’s outside counsel, who has strong ties to the Prop 8 movement. It was LiMandri who had been representing Prejean for the past several months as she negotiated with Miss Universe in their various skirmishes. He began working for Prejean pro bono, back in April.
“I felt she was getting a bad deal,” says LiMandri, who was brought in by Miles McPherson, Prejean’s pastor at the San Diego megachurch, The Rock. “I figured I’d help out for a couple of weeks and that would be it. But the attention continued so I stayed involved. Now that the mediation is over and the case I represented her on is done, I probably will not be involved with her as her attorney in any action going forward.”
He points out that Prejean’s press conference with NOM was done at the end of April, the same day Prejean recorded the spot for the robocalls. “It was one day,” he says. “Then people got angry, so she ended her involvement.”
One thing he does admit is that the future doesn’t look bright for Prejean, at least not right now. “She’s kind of withdrawn because of the controversy,” he says. “She doesn’t want to breach the agreement. It’s a very difficult situation to be in.”
For now, Carrie Prejean and her representatives are trying a new PR campaign that befits her fall from grace. It’s called “no comment.”
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.