- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

From combined dispatches

NEW YORK — Miss USA Tara Conner, who had come under criticism over rumors that she had been frequenting bars while underage, will be allowed to keep her title, Donald Trump announced yesterday.

“I’ve always been a believer in second chances,” Mr. Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Organization with NBC, said with Miss Conner at his side.

Mr. Trump said he and Miss Conner had met yesterday morning.

“She left a small town in Kentucky, and she was telling me that she got caught up in the whirlwind of New York,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference. “It’s a story that has happened many times before to many women and many men who came to the Big Apple. They wanted their slice of the Big Apple, and they found out it wasn’t so easy.”

Before he met with Miss Conner, Mr. Trump said on Fox News Channel that he was going to talk to her to learn the truth about the reports of bad behavior — including cocaine abuse, excessive drinking and kissing Miss Teen USA Katie Blair in public.

“Frankly, I have a lot of compassion for this young woman — she has had some problems,” he said.

Miss Conner won the title in April and has been living in New York. Recent press accounts of heavy drinking brought a storm of criticism because she was underage at the time. She turned 21 on Monday.

Miss Conner reportedly also failed to show up at appearances scheduled by pageant officials.

In a tear-choked voice at the press conference yesterday, Miss Conner said, “In no way did I think it would be possible for a second chance to be given to me.”

Turning to Mr. Trump, she said, “You’ll never know what this means to me, and I swear I will not let you down.”

Mr. Trump said Miss Conner would be entering rehabilitation.

“I think Tara is going to be the great comeback kid,” Mr. Trump said.

If Miss Conner had been dethroned, her title would have been taken over by the first runner-up, Miss California Tamiko Nash.

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