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Tussle for Pageant Crown Is Over in North Carolina

Dispute: Misty Clymer will be the state's Miss America entrant. She was challenged after winner Rebekah Revels quit, then backpedaled.


NEW YORK — A bizarre battle between two contestants to represent North Carolina in next week's Miss America pageant ended Thursday, when officials barred Rebekah Revels from claiming the state title that she had earlier given up after an ex-boyfriend revealed he took topless photos of her.

The decision by George Bauer, acting president of the Miss America Organization, came hours after a federal judge refused to order pageant officials to recognize Revels as the rightful Miss North Carolina. As a result, Misty Clymer, the runner-up who inherited the title in July, will represent the state in the Atlantic City, N.J., festivities Sept. 21.

"Rebekah Revels will not compete in the Miss America national finals next week," Bauer said in a statement issued Thursday. However, her status as a "VIP guest" at the pageant "will continue for the present time," he added.

Revels, who was in Atlantic City awaiting the legal resolution of her dispute, could not be reached for comment.

Earlier Thursday, Bauer said he was glad that U.S. District Judge James Fox in Wilmington, N.C., had "understood the Miss American Organization" and refused to intervene in the brouhaha that had developed in recent weeks over Revels' and Clymer's competing claims to the beauty crown.

"We have very high standards of integrity, no reflection on Rebekah Revels at all," Bauer said. "We try to attract the highest quality young women in the country."

In his ruling, Fox said that Miss America officials alone should make the final decision as to whether to exclude or include Revels in the pageant.

The controversy surfaced this summer when Steve Tosh, Revels' former boyfriend, sent an e-mail to North Carolina beauty pageant officials saying he had taken topless pictures of Revels in a dormitory room. He told them that "nude pics of Miss America bring in big bucks nowadays."

Revels, a 24-year-old high school English teacher, said she had been trapped in an "abusive" relationship with Tosh and resigned her crown several days after he threatened to publish the pictures.

Clymer, a 24-year-old accountant from Raleigh, was quickly named to replace her at the Miss America contest. But then Revels had second thoughts. She claimed that she had been unfairly forced to relinquish her title by pageant organizers, who ruled that--because of the nude pictures--she had breached the morals clause in her state contract.

The clause states that a contestant "must be of good moral character" and be someone who has not engaged in actions that are "dishonest, immoral, immodest, indecent or in bad taste."

Revels sued the North Carolina organizers and won an initial round last week when she persuaded Judge Narley L. Cashwell of Wake County Superior Court to issue a temporary order barring Clymer from assuming the title of Miss North Carolina. As a result, Clymer and Revels both traveled to Atlantic City this week and began rehearsals for the televised pageant.

Because Cashwell's order expired Wednesday, Revels had also filed a lawsuit in federal court asking Fox to require Miss America officials to recognize her--and not Clymer--as the rightful Miss North Carolina.

Fox said his decision was not so much about the women's competing claims, but about the integrity of the pageant itself.

"There is a public interest in seeing that the image [of the Miss America contest] is not tarnished, because if it is tarnished there will be fewer contestants, there will be fewer scholarships, there will be fewer ideals to uphold," he said. "I don't think that's silly. We are a country that admires bravery, courage and integrity. We instill it in our youth."

Fox added it was not clear whether Revels would prevail over Clymer in a trial, and said he needed more time on a request by Miss America organizers to submit the dispute to an arbitrator.

"I'm disappointed," said Barry Nakell, Revels' lawyer. "I certainly respect his judgment, although I disagree with it."

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