Reigning Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers has apologized — in a half-hearted way — for mocking Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia for not speaking English, TMZ is reporting.
Summers, a 24-year-old Nebraska native, inspired many “Mean Girls” and Regina George comparisons on social media for her comments at the Miss Universe contest in Thailand about the limited English skills of Miss Vietnam, H’Hen Nie, and Miss Cambodia, Rern Sinat.
Summers’s comments were also slammed as “racist,” “ignorant,” “bullying” and “xenophobic.”
Summers, a graduate of Texas Christian University, tried to quiet the controversy by issuing a statement on Instagram, saying “@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views. …In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize.”
But this is the classic non-apology apology, with Summers saying she just “now” realized her comments could “be perceived as not respectful.” She is essentially blaming other people’s “perceptions,” not herself, for saying things that were “not respectful,” or worse.
Summers was first caught on video by Miss Colombia Valeria Morales, who asked her, “What do you think of Miss Vietnam?”
Not sounding so much like polished beauty pageant queen, and more like Regina George holding court in the high school cafeteria, Summers said, “She’s so cute and she pretends to know so much English, and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes …”
Summers then did an imitation of H’Hen Nie, smiling and nodding. She added, chuckling: “She’s adorable.”
Summers repeated her impression of Nie upon Morales’ request.
In another video, Summers takes aim at Miss Cambodia for not speaking English. She said, “Can you imagine? Francesca said that would be so isolating, and I said, ‘yes and just confusing all the time.’”
“Poor Cambodia,” Summers added.
Yes, it may be that Summers was thinking she was expressing sympathy, but people on social media said she conveyed the view that everyone should speak English. They said that’s an interesting position for a pageant contestant who wants to compete on the global level and represent, well, the universe.
“This is basically what normalized xenophobia looks like,” one Instagram user wrote. “If she’s trying to show empathy, the condescending, intolerant tone tells a different story.”
Summers’ mother didn’t help matters, when she told TMZ that her daughter’s remarks were “taken out of context.”
“She in no way meant any harm,” Desiree Summers said. “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” As for imitating Miss Vietnam, Desiree Summers said her daughter was “just recreating how Miss Vietnam acts when she doesn’t understand what someone is saying. She wasn’t trying to mock her.”
People on social media didn’t agree with Mom, with some saying Summers shouldn’t be either Miss USA or Miss Universe.
Oh my God, Miss USA. Like, not everyone speaks English. Cause, like, despite your superiority complex, like, every country that’s like represented by the women in that pageant, is like, a sovereign nation, that like, has its own language, and like, di kami mag-aadjust sayo, like.
Various outlets, including TMZ, have reached out to the Miss Universe pageant for comment, but have yet to hear back.