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Since it’s common knowledge that nothing sells a paper like a good scandal, could the same work for pageants?

The latest news in the Miss USA underage-drinking/alleged drug use/inappropriate behavior kerfuffle is that Miss Teen USA–whom current Miss USA Tara Conner is said to have partied and made out with on several occassions–has been dropped by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for her behavior as well. This after yesterday’s revelation wherein Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe, USA, and Teen USA franchises, threatened to sue “The View” hostess Rosie O’Donnell over comments she made on the show after Trump decided against dropping Conner as Miss USA because of her hard-partying ways, instead showing mercy and sending her to rehab.

Said O’Donnell, “Because his show ‘The Apprentice’ is starting again in January, he held a big press conference to see if he was going to allow Miss USA, such a prestigious title.”

O’Donnell is partly right.

Sure, underneath that mop of hair, Trump probably is a nice guy who will give a person a second chance. But he’s also a shrewd businessman who knows that this story of rehab and redemption can generate buzz about the pageants themselves. After all, even bad publicity is good publicity. And publicity is something that the pageants sure could use.

Just look at the venerable Miss America Pageant. The one-time Altantic City September event is now held in January. In Las Vegas. In 1954, broadcast live for the first time, the pageant broke viewership records with 39 percent of the television audience (27 million viewers) watching the telecast. Now it’s aired on CMT (Country Music Television) and has a sister show called “Total Access: Miss America,” which follows the reigning title holder, Jennifer Berry, as she travels around the country.

With Trump’s money, the Miss Universe Oganization–producers of the Miss Unvirese, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA competions–has fared better and ratings for the pageants have been respectable, even if the winners aren’t.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien grilled Miss USA President Paula Shugart yesterday morning as to why the organization should keep Connor, since Miss USA is supposed to be a role model for young girls, implying that it was sending a bad message.

Times have changed since 1984, when Vanessa Williams, the first African-American Miss America, relinquished her crown when it came to light that Penthouse magazine would be publishing nude photos of her without her consent.

Now it seems that redemption, not rejection, is the name of the PR game. In fact, a recent CNN.com headline read “Miss USA says thanks for delivery from evil,” adding a bilical flare to the affair.

Fomer Miss USA Finalist and current Star Magazine editor Jill Dobson doesn’t buy it:

“I think she has brought disgrace to the program, based on all these reports, and we keep hearing this excuse, ‘Oh, she’s a small town girl and grew up in a three-stoplight town.'” she told CBS’ The Early Show. “I grew up in a one-stoplight town, and I’ve never caused an international scandal. So, I don’t think that’s an excuse.”

Dobson acknowledges what many have known for years, that all the negative press is actually good for Connor’s career. How many former Miss Americas or Miss USAs can you
name? Most likely, no more than the aforementioned Vanessa Williams and Shana Moakler, a former Miss USA who has recently been in heavy rotation in the tabloids for her catfight with Paris Hilton over an ex-husband.

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