The search for beauty has turned mighty ugly in the aftermath of the Miss USA 2012 pageant.
First, Miss Pennsylvania, Sheena Monnin, claimed the Sunday outcome was rigged and gave up her state crown in protest. Then, pageant officials said Monnin -- who failed to make the top 15 -- had really quit because she opposed competing against transgender contestants, who were allowed into the pageant for the first time this year.
Enter Donald Trump, the co-owner of the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageant, who denied Monnin's allegations and took a not-so-veiled stab at her appearance during an interview Wednesday on "Good Morning America." "If you look at her ... you'd understand why she's not in the top 15," Trump told George Stephanopoulos as a big screen showed pageant contestants strutting across a Las Vegas stage, blowing kisses to the crowd as they sashayed in bikinis and sparkling evening gowns.
"We're going to be suing her," Trump added.
"You're gonna sue her?" Stephanopoulos replied incredulously.
"Yeah, we're gonna sue her," Trump said, accusing Monnin, 27, of making false accusations of pageant-fixing that were insulting not only to the pageant, but to its judges, auditors and everyone else involved in the event. He added that Monnin suffers from "loser's remorse."
On Thursday, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Monnin's resignation had left the Keystone State without a beauty queen because Monnin's first runner-up was refusing to take her crown, since this would disqualify her from competing in the next Miss USA Pageant.
"So much for wishing for world peace," the News lamented.
Trump said this was the first such scandal to rock the pageant, whose officials have risen to its defense by releasing an email said to have been written by Monnin; the email would appear to support their allegations that she quit to protest transgender contestants.
"I refuse to be part of a pageant system that has so far and so completely removed itself from its foundational principles as to allow and support natural born males to compete in it," the email, dated June 4, said. "This goes against ever moral fiber of my being. I believe in integrity, high moral character, and fair play, none of which are part of this system any longer.
"I hereby return the title of Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012."
For the record, the winner of Miss USA this year was Olivia Culpo, a 20-year-old Rhode Islander who apparently scored big with the judges when she was asked her feelings about allowing transgender contestants into the mix.
Culpo took the safe but patriotic route, saying she understood some people's apprehension over the idea, then adding: "Today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it's a free country."
In an emailed statement, pageant officials said they were "disappointed that she [Monnin] would attempt to steal the spotlight" from Culpo. They added that the alleged source cited by Monnin as having informed her that the pageant was fixed "has vehemently refuted" the claims.
Whatever Trump or the pageant might think of Monnin, her Facebook page has lit up with messages of support since she pulled the state crown from her long, shiny hair for the last time. Most, like this one, say Trump's comments were off the mark and that Monnin was right to stand up for her beliefs -- whatever her real reason for quitting:
"You are a beautiful young woman. I don't care what "The Donald" says or that they [Miss USA] intend to sue?" wrote the fan. "You would have been my No.1 Choice had I been a judge."