A new Miss USA was crowned in Las Vegas on Sunday night. For the second consecutive year, the reigning Miss District of Columbia nabbed the title as Kára McCullough, a 25-year-old nuclear chemist from the nation’s capital, won the distinction this year. Her victory in the pageant was tinged with praise and controversy. McCullough, an African-American woman, won plaudits from observers for taking to the stage with her naturally curly hair on display. However, some remarks she made about feminism and health care raised eyebrows.
In the final round of the competition, each contestant was asked to describe her views on feminism. “I don’t want to call myself a feminist,” McCullough responded. “Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.” Backstage after the show she clarified her answer, saying, “I believe we’ve come a long way and there is more work to be done,” McCullough, said. “I think domestically we are making progress and I do believe that we will become equal one day.”
During the Q&A session earlier in the pageant, McCullough was given a question on a about as hot-button an issue as can be conceived right now: health care. “Do you think affordable health care for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege, and why?” And her response elicited a backlash, though she did have some supporters on social media.
“I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege,” McCullough said, invoking her job at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “As a government employee, I am granted health care. And I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs. So therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunities to have health care as well as jobs to all the American citizens worldwide.”
Many were turned off by the answer. “Miss DC was my fav but… not after that answer. Everyone has a right to healthcare. #MissUSA,” one Twitter user wrote alongside a GIF of a fired-up Bernie Sanders shouting, “That is unacceptable!”
Of course, McCullough’s remark comes in the midst of the Republican-controlled Congress actively working on legislation to replace and repeal Obamacare. The current plan, experts say, would leave as many as 24 million people without health coverage over the coming decade. Still, McCullough had some support here and there from those who praised her for answering the question honestly.
Watch McCullough’s answer below.