The Miss USA pageant, left without a stage after co-owner Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants, has found a home, courtesy of one of the Twin Cities’ most prominent families.
ReelzChannel, owned by St. Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting, announced Thursday that it will pick up live coverage on July 12 from Baton Rouge, La., following just three days of negotiations with pageant officials.
“The young women competing in this didn’t create this dispute,” said Reelz CEO Stan E. Hubbard. “They are as nonpolitical as any group could be.”
Hubbard, who is based in Albuquerque, N.M., but maintains a St. Paul office, said the acquisition should not be interpreted as a sign of support for Trump, who announced his candidacy for president in June.
“The Hubbards and Reelz are completely, in no way, endorsing Trump’s comments. Period. End of story,” he said. “I don’t want to get dragged into politics. This is about the pageant.”
Trump’s campaign announcement contained his assertion that some Mexican immigrants to the United States bring drugs and crime, and some are rapists. The remark set off a firestorm of objections from the Latino community and beyond.
Rapper Flo Rida had been the highest-profile performer scheduled for Miss USA, and his representative confirmed Wednesday that he wouldn’t perform. Country singer Craig Wayne Boyd, winner of “The Voice” last year, and pop singer Natalie La Rose also dropped out.
In a Miss USA news release last month, the judges were listed as HGTV star Jonathan Scott, country singer Jessie James Decker, E! News anchor Terrence Jenkins, TV host and former Miss Universe winner Zuleyka Rivera and NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. Of that quintet, only Decker’s name was listed as a judge by Miss USA on its website Wednesday. That’s the day Smith dropped out.
The pageant lost both of its co-hosts, Cheryl Burke of “Dancing With the Stars” and MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Jeannie Mai, who hosted a show on the Style Network, was listed as a show host.
Last week, the hosts of the now-abandoned Univision Spanish-language simulcast, Roselyn Sanchez and Cristian de la Fuente, said they wouldn’t take part in it.
It’s not the first time Reelz has picked up an abandoned project. When the History Channel dropped “The Kennedys” miniseries that had been made for it, saying it didn’t fit its brand, Reelz aired it in 2011 and was rewarded with record channel ratings and awards attention. A sequel, which will star Katie Holmes and feature her as a director, will start filming early next year.
“We’re an independent network that’s always looking for a place to show our flexibility,” said Hubbard, shortly before boarding a plane from New Mexico to Minnesota, where he plans to spend the holiday weekend with family.
No talk with Trump
Hubbard, who initiated conversations with pageant officials earlier this week, said no one from Reelz had any conversations with Trump.
He said he made the decision Wednesday night to offer the broadcast through the Second Audio Program (SAP), a service that allows many viewers to track coverage in Spanish.
Aside from the pageant world, there has been growing fallout on other fronts for Trump.
On Wednesday, the Macy’s department store chain, which carried a Donald Trump menswear line, said it was “distressed” by Trump’s remarks and was ending its relationship with him.
Trump said in a statement that he had decided to end his relationship with Macy’s because of pressure on them by outside sources.
“Both Macy’s and NBC totally caved at the first sight of potential difficulty with special interest groups who are nothing more than professional agitators,” Trump said.
As of Thursday, Trump had not responded to news of the Reelz’ acquisition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.