LAS VEGAS (AP) — Magician and Miss USA judge Penn Jillette says he's happy a pageant queen from Tennessee fell short to Miss California USA Alyssa Campanella because her onstage answer to a question about burning Qurans ran afoul of the First Amendment.
The vocal half of illusionist duo Penn and Teller said on Twitter that he's glad to have helped Miss Tennessee USA Ashley Durham lose the Miss USA competition on Sunday night. Campanella will represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant in September in Brazil, while Durham placed second.
"She negated the whole First Amendment," Jillette said in a tweet Sunday night. "Glad to help her lose."
He further said that Durham was fine in expressing disdain for religious burnings but shouldn't have advocated taking away freedoms.
With four competitors left gunning for the crown, Durham was asked a question posed by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito about whether burning religious books, including the Muslim holy book, should be afforded the same constitutional protections as flag burning. She struggled in her response, but said it crossed a line and shouldn't be allowed.
"I know that some people view it as a freedom of speech, however, burning the American flag is not patriotic at all," Durham said. "No American citizen should do that, and you should also respect other religions. I'm a Christian and a faithful person. I would personally not appreciate someone burning the Bible, and that's just a line you do not cross."
Durham fired back at Jillette in a statement issued Tuesday through state pageant officials, saying she's disappointed with Jillette's reaction. She said it's uncalled for that he would delight in shooting down her dreams.
"I understand and am grateful for the protections we enjoy under the U.S. Constitution, but the First Amendment does not extend to all types of speech," Durham said. "Due to my strong Christian beliefs, and my respect for the convictions of other, I personally feel that burning sacred texts goes too far."
It was not immediately clear whether Jillette's vote swung the competition against Durham. Miss USA officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comments about the ballots from The Associated Press.
The field of 51 contestants was narrowed to 16 by preliminary judges and a fan vote. A panel of celebrity TV judges then scored each pageant queen on swimsuit, evening gown and interview competitions.
Campanella, the 21-year-old California model who won the title, answered a question about the legalization of marijuana by saying it probably shouldn't be legalized fully, but she supports its use for medicinal purposes.
Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia