Remember when beauty pageant contestants were asked about their perfect dates of the year? (For the record, April 25. Not too hot, not too cold…all you need is a light jacket!)
Well, the judges of last Sunday’s Miss America pageant certainly weren’t lobbing any softball questions (our apologies to Miss Rhode Island from “Miss Congeniality”). Jess Cagle (editorial director of People and Entertainment Weekly) asked Miss Texas Margana Wood:
“Last month a demonstration of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK in Charlottesville Virginia turned violent and a counter-protester was killed. The president said there was shared blame with quote, very fine people on both sides. Were there? Tell me yes or no and explain.”
Wood responded clearly and and firmly without mincing words:
“I think that the white supremacist issue…it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact and making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”
If you’ll recall the aftermath of the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed, Donald Trump responded on August 12 by equivocating the two sides: “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.” After being prompted to take a stronger stand, Trump amended his statement on August 14, calling racism “evil” and naming “the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” as “thugs” and “criminals.” However, Trump ultimately reverted to his initial response on August 15, saying: “I do think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there’s blame on both sides. I have no doubt about it and you have no doubt about it either. You had people that were very fine people, on both sides[…]”
Trump’s comments prompted widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, including from members of his own party.
While she didn’t ultimately win the pageant (the award went to Miss North Dakota Cara Mund, who made her mark by passionately advocating for the United States to take a stronger role in fighting climate change), Margana Wood definitely won Miss Congeniality in our hearts.
Deborah Krieger is a curatorial assistant and freelance arts and culture writer. She had written for The Awl, Bust Magazine, PopMatters, Paste Magazine, Whitehot Magazine, and blogs at www.i-on-the-arts.com/