Donald Trump has fired back at Jenna Talackova, the Canadian transsexual beauty queen who mired his Miss Universe pageant in controversy, and her high-powered attorney who is demanding the beauty pageant be open to all contestants, even those born male.
“I think Jenna should focus on running up in Canada and seeing how she does in Canada and then, if she does well, she has a chance to become what many, many young women all over the world want to be and that’s Miss Universe,” Trump, whose company owns the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants, said today on “Good Morning America.” “That should be her focus.”
Talackova, 23, was selected as one of 65 finalists in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada competition but was disqualified Friday because she was not a “naturally born female.” The Vancouver-born Talackova was born a male but had sexual reassignment surgery at age 19.
Days after the disqualification drew worldwide headlines, the Trump organization Monday said it would not attempt to keep Talackova out of the competition.
“The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions,” Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s executive vice president and special counsel, said in an email statement announcing the change.
But the change was not enough for Talackova and her attorney, Gloria Allred, who called the statement “confusing” in a high-profile news conference Tuesday in New York. Talackova wants pageant organizers to go further and drop eligibility rules she calls discriminatory.
“Mr. Trump, admit that you are wrong and get rid of your Trumped-up rule,” Allred said during the news conference.
“I did not know that she had a lawyer and especially Gloria Allred,” Trump said today. “In fact, had I known it was Gloria Allred, I probably would not have reversed my decision because, you know, Gloria is easy to beat.”
“The fact is we went by the laws of the country and the laws are very clear and, based on that, about two days ago, we decided to let her compete,” he said of his organization’s decision.
The winner of the Miss Universe Canada title, who will be crowned May 19 in Toronto, will go on to represent Canada in the Miss Universe Pageant later in the year.
Because the international nature of the pageant means future transgender contestants would have to abide by laws in their respective countries, Trump acknowledged the organization might have to, in the future, cede to Talackova and Allred’s calls for a blanket policy that would supercede all laws.
“We’ll probably have to open it up … because if it’s in Canada and if it’s in the United States, in terms of their laws, and if other countries don’t necessarily have those laws, it wouldn’t be fair just to take certain countries,” he said. “So we’ll probably decide – we haven’t made that decision yet – but we’ll probably decide to open it up.”
Talackova and Allred avoided questions during Tuesday’s news conference of whether she will compete if the rule is not eliminated before this year’s Miss Universe Canada pageant.
The blonde beauty’s birth certificate, passport and driver’s license reflect that she is a woman, Allred said during the news conference. They believe that should be enough for the competition.
“I want Mr. Trump to state that this rule will be eliminated because I do not want any other woman to suffer from the discrimination that I have endured,” Talackova said during the news conference.
The beauty queen has not tried to hide her past. In a 2010 YouTube video for Miss International Queen, a transgender-transsexual competition in which Talackova was a contestant, she stated that she began hormone therapy to become a female at age 14.
“We’re going by the laws of Canada and the laws of the United States and they’re really very clear,” Trump said. “I hope she does well.”
ABC News’ Jennifer Abbey contributed to this report.