Miss USA apologizes over 'xenophobic' remarks vs Miss Cambodia, Miss Vietnam

MANILA, Philippines – Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers apologized early Friday, December 14, following backlash over what many deemed a "mean girls" moment when she talked about candidates at the Miss Universe competiton who are not fluent in English.  

"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. 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," said Sarah in an Instagram post of herself, Miss Australia Francesca Hung, Miss Colombia Valeria Morales, Miss Vietnam H'Hen Niê, and Miss Cambodia Rern Sinat. 

The photo shows the 5 women hugging, with subsequent photos showing Miss Cambodia giving Miss USA a peck on the cheek. 

View this post on Instagram @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. 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. 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. A post shared by Sarah Rose Summers (@sarahrosesummers) on Dec 13, 2018 at 9:41am PST

The trouble began during a Instagram live video featuring Sarah Rose, Francesca and Valeria. During a portion of the live telecast on social media, Sarah Rose pointed out that some contestants – Miss Vietnam in particular – spoke little English. "[Miss Vietnam H'Hen Nie] pretends to know so much English and you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her she goes –" said Miss USA, before nodding and laughing in the Instagram live video.

She later made comments about Miss Cambodia. "Can you imagine? Francesca said that would be so isolating, and I said, yes and just confusing all the time," she told Valeria, referring to Rern. 

While Sarah later said her words were misconstrued as being disrespectful, users pointed out that mocking someone for not being able to speak English wasn't just mean – it was xenophobic.

"We all did the great job on the stage tonight! Sleep well and tomorrow will be brighter, my girls. Hugs and kisses. We are a family," wrote Miss Vietnam as a caption to the same photos Miss USA posted. 

View this post on Instagram We all did the great job on the stage tonight! Sleep well and tomorrow will be brighter, my girls. Hugs and kisses. We are a family #MissUniverse #Sisterhood A post shared by H'Hen Niê (@hhennie.official) on Dec 13, 2018 at 10:33am PST

"My friendship and sisterhood in Miss Universe will forever be kept in my heart. Our experience have given us the opportunity to show and learn different cultures. I speak the language of love, respect and understanding. I love you my sisters," wrote Miss Cambodia in a separate post. 

View this post on Instagram My friendship and sisterhood in Miss Universe will forever be kept in my heart. Our experience have given us the opportunity to show and learn different cultures. I speak the language of love, respect and understanding. I love you my sisters.♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️ A post shared by Rern Sinat (@rern_sinat) on Dec 13, 2018 at 4:24pm PST

Ninety-four women are competiting in the 2018 version of the pageant. A new Miss Universe will be crowned Monday, December 17 (Manila time), during the pageant finals in Thailand. – Rappler.com