Miss USA Contestant: Rigging Comment Was a 'Joke'

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While former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin is refusing to back down from her claim that the Miss USA pageant was rigged, the fellow contestant she cites as evidence flatly denied Friday that she discovered the final five contestants were selected in advance.

Monnin abruptly resigned her post as Miss Pennsylvania this week and has said she feels a "moral obligation" to expose the truth after her fraud allegation. The claim has been denied by the Miss Universe Organization -- which puts on the Miss USA pageant -- and its co-owner Donald Trump, who retaliated by filing a lawsuit against Monnin to pursue all "legal rights and remedies, including monetary damages" for her "ongoing defamatory statements."

"I feel disappointed that (Trump) has made some of the statements that he said about me, and I feel prepared to continue to pursue the truth," Monnin said on Friday's Today show. "I know what I heard, and I know what I in turn witnessed come true based on what I heard the contestant said she saw the list, so I'm prepared to continue to march forward," she added.

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Monnin has identified Miss Florida, Karina Brez, as the contestant who told her she had seen a list of the Top 5 before the show even started.

But in a new statement on Friday, Brez explained that her comment to Monnin was meant as a joke. "Backstage during the Pageant, I did see a piece of paper with names on
it, and like most people in such frenetic circumstances, joked that they
must be the names of the final contestants. It was a throwaway
comment, in the stress of the pageant, and was never meant as a fact.
The list I saw didn't even have the eventual winner on it."

The Miss Universe Organization also put out a new statement on Friday refuting Monnin's "false accusations" and vowing to "pursue this matter to the fullest extent of the law." The statement also reiterates the organization's earlier statements that Monnin actually resigned because of a policy change related to transgendered contestants and later changed her story to make "false accusations" that the pageant was fixed.

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The Miss Universe Organization says it believes Monnin is attempting to "steal the spotlight" from Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island, who was crowned the winner of the Miss USA pageant last Sunday night.