LAS VEGAS (AP) — Racist language in old tweets from the freshly crowned Miss Teen USA is just the latest controversy for the Miss Universe Organization, which suffered a round of turmoil last year over then-owner Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments against Mexicans.
The new flap came over the weekend, shortly after 18-year-old Texan Karlie Hay was crowned Miss Teen USA in Las Vegas on Saturday. Social media users quickly unearthed an account with Hay’s name that featured the N-word in tweets from 2013 and 2014, and the organization was forced into damage control mode.
“The language Karlie Hay used is unacceptable at any age and in no way reflects the values of The Miss Universe Organization,” pageant officials said in a statement, adding that Hay was “in a different place in her life” when she posted the tweets. “Karlie learned many lessons through those personal struggles that reshaped her life and values. We as an organization are committed to supporting her continued growth.”
Miss Universe officials pointed to an apology Hay posted on Twitter and Instagram, in which she admitted using language that she wasn’t proud of and “is not representative of who I am as a person.”
The pageant empire has had a bumpy ride since last summer. Miss Universe was co-owned by NBCUniversal and Republican presidential nominee Trump until shortly after he made anti-immigrant remarks last year.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems,” Trump said about Mexico in a speech announcing his presidential bid. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Spanish-language network Univision and NBC responded by cutting ties with Trump and saying they wouldn’t broadcast the Miss Universe pageant. Trump ultimately bought NBC’s stake, then sold the pageant to talent agency WME/IMG in September.
The new owners have taken steps to rebrand the Miss Teen USA pageant, including scrapping the swimsuit competition and replacing it with an athletic wear segment. The move drew praise from observers who said it emphasized strength instead of physical appearance.