Independent TV network Reelz to air Miss USA pageant

LOS ANGELES — The Miss USA pageant, left without a TV home following blowback against co-owner Donald Trump over his comments on Mexican immigrants, has been rescued by the Reelz channel.

Reelz CEO Stan E. Hubbard said in a statement Thursday that the cable and satellite channel acquired the rights because of a belief that the pageant and the women who compete in it “are an integral part of American tradition.”

“As one of only a few independent networks, we decided to exercise our own voice and committed ourselves to bringing this pageant to American viewers everywhere,” Hubbard said.

While Reelz, which reaches 70 million homes, said it considered the interests of Miss USA contestants, the host city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and viewers in making its decision, it made no mention of Trump or the hot water he’s found himself in since he announced his presidential bid in June.

In an interview, Hubbard said the pageant is the issue, not Trump. He said the billionaire won’t make any money off the telecast.

“I completely understand why millions of people were offended by what Donald Trump said. I think his comments were incredibly insensitive and wrong. I disagree with them completely and totally,” Hubbard said, adding, “I also believe this pageant is as nonpolitical” as an event can be.

In his June presidential campaign announcement, Trump said that some Mexican immigrants to the U.S. bring drugs and crime, and some are rapists. NBC, Trump’s partner in the Miss USA pageant, cited his comments when it cut business ties with him and dropped its pageant telecast.

That left Miss USA adrift and created an opening for Reelz.

Hubbard said the license fee negotiated with the pageant was well below market value for such events and so small that it “won’t put even a dent in the production costs” shouldered by the pageant. He declined to specify the amount.

“The point is that people who were offended want to make sure he’s (Trump) not going to profit from our decision,” and that won’t happen, Hubbard said.

Trump declined to comment on the Reelz acquisition.

The pageant also won’t make money from commercial spots; any revenue will go to Reelz. Hubbard said it will be a scramble to sign advertisers both because of timing and the controversy surrounding the pageant.

This isn’t the first time Reelz has gone its own way. 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.

Reelz said the Miss USA pageant will be televised July 12, its originally scheduled date on NBC. The pageant will have to scramble after a mass exodus of performers, hosts and judges who cited opposition to Trump’s views as the reason.

Hubbard said he’s optimistic the telecast will be “loaded with talent and heavy entertainment value,” and said he’d prefer to see a Hispanic host.

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. There were no more announced performers.

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 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.

Trump’s campaign comments struck many Latinos as insensitive, and Univision’s decision last week to back out of televising Miss USA and break off its business ties with Trump led to a cascade of others following suit. Trump responded by suing Univision on Tuesday.

Aside from the pageant world, there has growing fallout on other fronts for the GOP presidential hopeful and businessman.

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.

Also on Wednesday, New York City officials said they were reviewing the city’s contracts with Trump in light of his comments, and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement calling them “disgusting and offensive,” adding that “this hateful language has no place in our city.”

The Trump Organization currently operates several city concessions, including a golf course, ice skating rink and carousel.

Representatives for Trump did not respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment on the city’s review.

The PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, USGA and PGA of America also on Wednesday distanced themselves from Trump in a statement and said his remarks were “inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.”

Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, the nation’s only Latina governor and a rising star in the Republican party, added her voice Wednesday to criticism of the GOP presidential hopeful, denouncing his comments as “horrible.”

This article was written by Lynn Elber of the Associated Press.