Bogus Claim About Miss USA Originated on Satirical Website

Quick Take

The Miss USA crown was passed to the runner-up earlier this year, and the Miss Netherlands title went to that country’s first transgender winner in July. Both will compete to be Miss Universe in December. But a Facebook post spreads a bogus claim about Miss USA boycotting the upcoming competition.


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In October 2022, R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas was crowned Miss USA, and North Carolina’s Morgan Romano was named the pageant’s runner-up. 

Photo by Dennis Oblander/stock.adobe.com

In January, Gabriel went on to win the title of Miss Universe, and she passed the Miss USA crown to Romano.

Meanwhile, Rikkie Valerie Kollé became the first transgender woman to be chosen as Miss Netherlands on July 8. She will be the second openly transgender woman to compete in the Miss Universe contest, which will be held in December. 

But now, amid a conservative backlash against transgender rights, a Facebook post is spreading a false claim about the contestants. “Miss USA Boycotts Miss Universe Pageant: ‘I’m Not Competing Against a Man,’” the post reads.

But it’s a fabrication.

This misinformation originated on a satirical website, America’s Last Line of Defense, which describes itself as a “network of parody, satire, and tomfoolery.” We’ve written about other false claims created on the website and spread on social media.

The Facebook post, however, does not identify its content as satire.

The article on the America’s Last Line of Defense website inaccurately identifies the current Miss USA as Natasha Berkelston from Ashbaucher, Indiana.

The story quotes Berkelston as saying, “I won’t compete against a man. … And I won’t be in the same locker room. Those areas are sacred and no place for a man.”

But, as we said, Morgan Romano, not Natasha Berkelston, currently wears the Miss USA crown. There is no evidence that a Natasha Berkelston exists. Furthermore, Ashbaucher, Indiana, does not exist.

In a statement in response to the viral claim, Romano told Reuters she will be competing in the Miss Universe contest.

“I support all of the national contestants and any woman brave and confident enough to put herself out there on the global stage!” Romano said. “I would never boycott or skip a competition for a reason like this.”


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

NEWS4SA. “San Antonio’s R’Bonney Gabriel becomes first Filipino-American to be crowned Miss USA 2022.” 4 Oct 2022.

CBS News. “R’Bonney Gabriel, first Filipino American to win Miss USA, is crowned Miss Universe.” 16 Jan. 2023.

Stevenson, Gabi. “Meet Morgan Romano, the engineer crowned the new Miss USA after R’Bonney Gabriel won Miss Universe.” Insider. 30 Jan 2023. 

Moses, Claire. “A Trans Woman Is Crowned Miss Netherlands for the First Time.” New York Times. 11 Jul 2023.

Murphy, Esme. “This year’s Pride celebrations marred by backlash against trans community.” CBS News Minnesota. 18 Jun 2023.

Nagourney, Adam and Jeremy W. Peters. “How a Campaign Against Transgender Rights Mobilized Conservatives.” New York Times. Updated 17 Apr 2023.

Fichera, Angelo. “Viral Story Spreads Made-Up AOC ‘Quote’ on Soldiers.” FactCheck.org. 23 Jul 2019.

Fichera, Angelo. “Pelosi Hasn’t Promised to Resign if Trump is Reelected.” FactCheck.org. 2 Apr 2020.

Rai, Pria and Jack Gray. “Miss Netherlands: Transgender model ‘broke boundaries’ with beauty pageant win.” BBC. 12 Jul 2023. 

Reuters. “Fact Check — Satirical claims Miss USA is boycotting Miss Universe pageant are taken seriously.” 17 Jul 2023.

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