He characterized her choices as “very, very bad.” But in the end Donald J. Trump magnanimously announced today that he would give a second chance to Miss USA, Tara Conner, the beauty pageant winner who has been the subject of numerous published reports of alcohol and drug use and wild partying.
Miss Conner, who just turned 21, fought back tears as she appeared at a news conference with Mr. Trump, a co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization. Wearing a light blue shirt under a dark pinstripe suit, Ms. Conner acknowledged drinking alcohol while under the legal age, but said that it would be “pushing” it to say that she had a drinking problem.
“I would not say that I am an alcoholic,” she said, though at times, she said, she was unable to resist drinks offered free to her. “We all have personal demons that we all have to face at some time or another,” she said.
Ms. Conner and Mr. Trump refused to answer any questions from reporters about reports alleging drug use or drug testing. Mr. Trump said that he went into a meeting with Ms. Conner this morning expecting to terminate her reign as Miss USA. But he said the meeting showed him someone with “a good heart” who had “left a small town in Kentucky,” only to be caught up in a “whirlwind” in New York.
“It’s a story that has happened many times before, to many women and to many men that came to the Big Apple,” Mr. Trump said.
The president of the Miss Universe Organization, Paula M. Shugart, responding to recent reports about Ms. Conner’s behavior, said in a statement last week that the organization and Mr. Trump were evaluating her “behavior and personal issues” to see what they could do to work with her.
Mr. Trump noted today that in 2002, he deposed Oxana Federova as Miss Universe and replaced her with a runner-up after Ms. Federova did what he called a “terrible” job.
“In the case of Tara, she made some very, very bad choices, some foolish choices,” said Mr. Trump.
But he said that Ms. Conner, who was crowned Miss USA in April, had admitted to her mistakes. He said that many of the reports circulating about her public behavior were false, although he did not say which ones.
“I’ve always been a believer in second chances,” Mr. Trump told reporters, adding that he thought Ms. Conner could serve as an example for young people.
“She has agreed to go into rehab; she knows that if she makes even the slightest mistake from here on, she will be immediately replaced,” he said.
“Tara is going to be the great comeback kid,” he later added.
Ms. Conner thanked Mr. Trump, her family and others, and noted that she had made a recent promotional appearance at a Target store.
“I have wanted this since I was 13 years old,” she said.