Miss USA Apologizes After Sparking Backlash Over Comments About Asian Miss Universe Contestants

Miss USA, Sarah Rose Summers, was accused of mocking the English-speaking skills of Miss Cambodia Rern Sinat and Miss Vietnam H'Hen Nie

Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers has apologized for comments about two of her fellow Miss Universe contestants.

On Thursday, Summers, 24, expressed remorse on Instagram after receiving backlash for a video that showed her apparently mocking the English-speaking skills of Miss Cambodia Rern Sinat and Miss Vietnam H’Hen Nie.

“@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views. We all come from different backgrounds and can grow alongside one another,” Summers wrote alongside a photo of herself and her fellow contestants embracing one another.

“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,” Summers continued. “My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me.”

Summers’ initial comments, which were reportedly part of an Instagram Live video on Miss Colombia Valeria Morales’ account, were captured and shared by another Instagram user. In the video, Summers, who is joined by Morales and Miss Australia Francesca Hung, discusses H’Hen’s English language abilities.

“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 said, nodding and smiling in a way that seemed to mimic H’Hen before laughing. “She’s adorable.”

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Summers also said in the video, “Miss Cambodia is here and doesn’t speak any English, and not a single person here speaks her language. Can you imagine? Francesca said that it would be very isolating and I think yes, and just confusing all the time.”

The footage prompted widespread backlash online.

On Twitter, one user wrote, “@MissUniverse i wonder if you will still allow Miss USA, Columbia [sic], and Australia to continue in the competition after their racist/ bigoted remarks toward fellow contestant Miss Cambodia. I can’t believe these ladies will be representing their countries.”

The Daily Mail reported that Hung responded to the controversy on Instagram, writing that the video had been “misconstrued.”

“I’m so upset that this situation has been misconstrued like this,” Hung reportedly wrote alongside a photo of herself with Sinat. “We were merely saying it must be even more difficult at times not to have a single other delegate being able to speak [Khmer] … which in fact, makes Nat [Miss Cambodia] an even stronger contender [to win the title].”

Hung’s father is Chinese, while her mother is Irish-Australian.

“I want to really inspire and be a role model for any multicultural kid growing up,” the 24-year-old Miss Australia told SBS News in June.

The Miss Universe 2018 pageant is being held in Thailand.

2018 has previously been praised as a landmark year for the Miss Universe pageant. Miss Spain Angela Ponce is making history as the pageant’s first openly transgender contestant. In addition, Reuters reports that Rosa Montezuma will be Panama’s first indigenous Miss Universe contestant.

The Miss Universe pageant will air live on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on FOX.

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