Only in America: Lebanese immigrant is new Miss USA and right-wing bloggers gowild
Here's a story that could only happen in America. At a time when immigration is a hot topic and anyone with a Middle Eastern name is subject to an airport search, the new Miss USA is a Lebanese-American from a family that celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths.
Miss Michigan, 24-year-old Rima Fakih, was crowned in Las Vegas Sunday night and will represent the United States in the Miss Universe pageant this summer.
Fakih was born in Lebanon and moved to the United States as an infant with her parents. She was raised in New York City and attended Catholic school. In 2003, her family moved to Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in economics and sold her car (a Ford, because "I buy American," said during the live telecast on NBC) to enter her first pageant.
Fakih not only overcame the stereotype of most pageant winners — traditionally such competitions favor small-town blondes with enhanced breasts — she sidestepped a bad wobble when she nearly slipped during the evening gown portion of the competition.
Her selection has sent the right-wing blogosphere into a frenzy, with some conspiracy theorists hurling vitriol usually reserved for President Obama.
Radio talk show host Debbie Schussell alleges that Fakih is a "Hezbollah-supporting Shi'ite Muslim" whose bid was financed by "an Islamic terrorist and immigration fraud perpetrator."
Author Daniel Pipes credits her win to "an odd form of affirmative action" while blogger Michelle Makin is shocked that, during the question-and-answer part of the competition, Fakih called birth control "a controlled substance" and argued that contraceptives should be covered by health insurance because they are "expensive."
"Imagine if those words had come out of the mouth of Carrie Prejean or Sarah Palin," Makin wrote. "Between the NYTimes, MSNBC, Jon Stewart, and the late night talkers, we wouldn’t hear the end of it."
Makin much preferred Miss Oklahoma's answer to a question about Arizona's new immigration law. Morgan Elizabeth Woolard is for it but against racial profiling, which, in Makin's view was the reason she came in second to Fakih.
I, personally, always find the Q&A portion of pageants, hilarious. None of the contestants ever make much sense. Do we really expect pageant winners to have smokin' bods and be able to solve all the world's problems?
But if we were going to debate the issue, I would point out that Fakih is from Lebanon and most Lebanese, like my grandfather, who immigrated to the United States are Christians. She likely has Muslim relatives, but was raised Catholic. And I doubt if she's a practicing Muslim, or she wouldn't be parading around in a skimpy bikini before millions of viewers — or have participated in a Detroit-area radio station strip contest, which she reportedly won in 2007.
But even is she is a Muslim, or a stripper, for that matter, so what?
Meanwhile, Miss USA pageant owner Donald Trump must be the happiest man alive. Trump loves controversy and attention — and the new Miss USA provides both.
But, as a veteran pageant watcher, I am shocked. Miss Texas didn't make the top 15 for the first time in memory.
Now, that's cause for an investigation.