A Michigan beauty pageant champion stripped of her title amid concerns over her offensive tweets has stood by her controversial comments in a fresh television interview.
Speaking with CNN on Monday, Kathy Zhu argued that the organizers of the Miss World America competition—the finals of which Zhu was set to compete in this October—should be empowering women to speak out, not stripping them of titles because the organization disagreed with their views.
Zhu was stripped of her Miss Michigan title and banned from competing in the MWA finals after the offensive tweets came to light. A MWA representative described the tweets as “offensive, insensitive and inappropriate content.”
The first incident related to a “Try a hijab” booth at University of Central Florida when she was still a student there. “So you’re telling me that it’s now just a fashion accessory and not a religious thing?” she wrote, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “Or are you just trying to get women used to being oppressed under Islam?”
The other offending tweet related to police violence against black people. Zhu wrote: “Did you know the majority of black deaths are caused by other blacks? Fix problems within your own community first before blaming others.”
Zhu told CNN host Alisyn Camerota Monday that she stood by her comments, and claimed that everything she said was supported by factual evidence.
“You shouldn’t just take tweets out of context,” Zhu said, explaining she had made the remarks about black communities within a wider debate about police violence. “I think it’s super important, the full context of the tweet and the full conversation.”
The University of Michigan student added that “everything I posted was my statistics and opinions, and I think that we should be empowering women’s voices and not just stripping them of their title only because of their opinions.”
Camerota pressed Zhu on why she focused on problems within black communities rather than any other ethnic groups. Zhu explained that the tweet was specifically related to a conversation about police violence towards black people, and was sent in response to suggestions that “all cops are bad people, that they kill innocent black people. I think that you shouldn’t just put a blanket statement over all cops.”
Zhu said her assertion is backed up by evidence, citing FBI crime statistics. “I think it’s really really awful how the left thinks statistics and facts are racist. So I don’t think anything I said was remotely wrong. I stand by every tweet that I post.”
Department of Justice crime statistics show that the vast majority of crimes are committed by people of the same race as their victim. This is as true in black communities as it is in white, Hispanic or any other communities.
“I can’t just take a tweet and turn it around saying, ‘Oh, white on white violence too.’ Of course everyone has problems with their own communities, and I completely understand that,” Zhu continued. “But we have to empower women’s voices honestly to show that we can have different political opinions.”
Pushed again on why she pulled up black on black violence statistics in a discussion about police brutality, Zhu again claimed her comments had been taken “fully out of context…If you think statistics and facts are racist, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Moving onto the hijab booth incident, Zhu once again said she did not see how her comments could be offensive. “I think that it’s really rude, I feel like to Muslims too, to wear their sacred garment on someone who is not a Muslim themselves. I wouldn’t want to put a Catholic rosary on someone if they aren’t Catholic.”
Camerota responded by saying that Zhu’s tweet was clearly referring to female oppression under Islam rather than any fears of her own cultural insensitivity.
“There are so many in Muslim countries right now being stoned to death because they don’t want to wear a hijab due to their husbands’ requirement to do so,” Zhu replied. “I think we should be focusing on that way more than the Western things about Muslims,” she added.
“These women are being crucified for not wearing a hijab,” Zhu claimed. “And I think that’s really awful.” She did not cite any specific cases where crucifixion had been carried out for failure to wear a hijab.