NBC cancellation of Miss USA broadcast ‘robs Baton Rouge,’ says councilman

Baton Rouge got caught in the crossfire today as NBC announced it will not be airing the Miss USA pageant live from Baton Rouge on July 12 as scheduled. NBC says it is ending its business relationship with Donald Trump, a co-owner of the pageant, because of comments the presidential candidate made about Mexican immigrants during his recent campaign announcement.

Neither Mayor Kip Holden nor Visit Baton Rouge President Paul Arrigo are commenting on the announcement, but Metro Councilman John Delgado says “it’s obviously extremely disappointing.”

“It literally robs Baton Rouge of our ability to put ourselves in front of the country and the world in the same positive light that we were put in during last year’s pageant,” says Delgado. “So it’s very bad news for Baton Rouge.”

In an email, an aide to Holden says “there will be no comment from our office until we hear whether this matter can be resolved.” Arrigo did not return a call for comment.

This year marks the second straight that the Miss USA Pageant is being held in Baton Rouge. Last year’s event took place before a sold-out Baton Rouge River Center crowd and was aired live on NBC. About 70 countries saw the broadcast, which included many flattering shots of the Capital City.

Today’s announcement from NBC comes on the heels of an announcement last week by New York-based Univision that it was pulling the plug on its Spanish-language coverage of the pageant on its UniMas network. The UniMas telecast would have been the first in a five-year contract with the pageant.

Delgado says the NBC announcement is “100 times worse” than the Univision announcement, as Baton Rouge is more of a regional tourism destination than it is an international draw.

As for the $230,000 from the general fund the Metro Council has already approved to help pay for costs associated with hosting the pageant, Delgado says he doesn’t see how—or why—the council would try to remove the funding in light of today’s announcement.

“As an attorney, I would say that we made the deal and it wasn’t contingent on the show being aired by NBC, so I don’t see any legal basis to withdraw the funds,” he says. “That being said, I would have to guess that Miss USA might have a pretty good lawsuit.”

In total, pageant producers were offered $545,000 from local and state agencies to bring the event back to Baton Rouge. Trump responded to the NBC announcement today by telling The Associated Press he’s considering a lawsuit, just as he is against Univision.

The broadcast aside, Delgado says the city-parish will likely recoup the funds it’s spending on the pageant.

“You’ll still see the hotel stays, the restaurant spends and everything else that comes along with it,” he says. “Basically, we made our money back last year with the taxes it brought in, and I think we’ll do the same this year even with this announcement. What we’re really losing out on is a lot of free advertising.”

—Steve Sanoski

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