Carrie Prejean will remain Miss California for now, announced real estate mogul Donald Trump Tuesday.
Trump, co-owner of the Miss Universe Origination, said at a press conference that they reviewed the semi-nude photos that Prejean took when she was 17 years old and also the new set of photos released that very morning.
Though some of the photos were risqué, Trump and the organisation determined that overall they were "acceptable, fine, and in some cases ... lovely" and that Prejean’s failure to disclose them upon entering the Miss California pageant was a miscommunication, not a breach of contract as California pageant officials alleged.
Prejean, who turns 22 on Wednesday, explained at Tuesday's briefing that the first set of leaked photos were taken by a girlfriend at home for her portfolio to submit to modelling agents. The photos were intended "for application rather than publication", she stressed.
"I answered truthfully on my pageant application and I have not been photographed in semi-nude or nude publications," Prejean added.
Regarding the latest photo leak, the Southern California beauty queen explained that they were released by a professional photographer and that they were unauthorised and inappropriate images taken "between pose shots on a windy day" while she was unaware.
Prejean, who was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, also stressed that she is not an activist.
"Being at the centre of a media firestorm is not something I had planned or signed up for," she said. "Let me be clear, I am not an activist, nor do I have a personal agenda. I was thrown into this firestorm from the time I was asked the question on stage."
During the Miss USA competition, Prejean was asked whether states should legalise gay marriage as Vermont had recently done. In response, Prejean said she believed marriage should be between a man and woman, almost immediately igniting a media frenzy.
In less than a day, she was all over YouTube and called to fly out to New York for an interview on the Today Show.
"I was scared," Prejean recalled during a recent interview with Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.
"I feel like I'm going in the lion's den right now. I'm not sure what to expect. I don't know what they're going to ask me," she recalled thinking when on the flight to New York for her first post-pageant interview.
The beauty pageant queen explained that she did not know why she was being requested for an interview even before the Miss USA winner or what she was getting into.
Empathising with Prejean, Dobson told Prejean, "The media is going to try to destroy you.
"Those on the far left and in Hollywood are not real happy about you," Dobson said.
Focus on the Family recorded the interview between Prejean and Dobson more than a week ago, before the first set of racy photos surfaced.
At the beginning of the Focus on the Family broadcast, which aired on Monday and continued on Tuesday, Dobson made note of the photos and said Focus on the Family opposes "that kind of sensuality" and remains a strong supporter of modesty and righteousness.
The organisation, however, decided to air the interview this week after receiving confirmation from Prejean that she regrets taking such photos and would not do it again.
"Most of us did things when we were teens that we're embarrassed about too. But life goes on," Dobson said.
"We're a ministry that believes in compassion," he added.
Dobson also explained to listeners that he invited Prejean to the programme not to debate the merits of beauty pageants, the swimsuit competition or the profession of modelling but to let everyone know the "behind-the-scenes" story of Prejean's famous answer.
But Prejean did mention during the broadcast that the experience has "definitely changed my whole perspective of 'what is a beauty pageant'" and caused her to ask "why did I even do a pageant to begin with" and "what was my purpose in doing it?"
Though Prejean was prepared to win the national beauty pageant when going into the competition, her chances were cut after judge Perez Hilton asked her the gay marriage question. After choosing to stay true to her values rather than respond with a politically correct answer, Prejean knew right after that she was not going to win Miss USA, she told Dobson.
"You may be persecuted, you may be made fun of, you may be mocked and judged and told awful, awful names but at the end of the day you're moving on with your life," Prejean said.
In the interview, Prejean told Dobson that she has no regrets over her response during the Miss USA competition despite the persecution and insults that followed and losing the national title. She believes God chose her to answer that specific question.
"I feel as though God ... had trusted in me that I would have spoken out ... I was the only one in the top five that wasn't going to be politically correct," Prejean said on the broadcast.
"I want to encourage other people that when you're faced with an issue which you know in your heart you know what to say ... don't ever compromise that just for pleasing them," she added. "Your goal should be to please God, not please man."
During Tuesday's press briefing, Prejean commented that she answered from her heart and that now she was being "punished for doing so".
"This should not happen in this country," she said.
Trump acknowledged that Miss California was asked a tough question and said she gave a very honest answer.
"It's the same answer the president of the US gave, the same answer many people gave," Trump said. "It was probably a fair question because it’s asked of many people. If her beauty wasn't so great, nobody really would have cared. But that's not the way it worked out."
As her faith commands her, Prejean said she has forgiven everyone who has made personal attacks, spread rumours and made false allegations about her.
"Not everyone may like me or agree with me but I hope at the end of the day everyone can respect my rights as I respect theirs and together we can bring back civility back to our social and cultural discussions," she said.
"I am convinced now more than ever of the importance of standing up for your beliefs and convictions," said Prejean.
"I hope I have inspired others to maintain compassion, civility, respect and tolerance while staying true to your convictions and to never ever compromise your beliefs in the pursuit of his or her own goals regardless of the consequences."
Carrie Prejean keeps Miss California title
Published 13 May 2009