A Miss Universe selfie that set off a Middle East controversy was nothing more than “a celebration of universal friendship,” pageant organizers said Monday.
The controversy began when Miss Lebanon and Miss Israel appeared together in the picture.
Miss Israel posted it to her Instagram account. That didn’t sit well with Lebanon, a longtime foe of Israel.
Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, is now facing pressure back home, with some calling for her crown. Lebanon has launched an investigation.
Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, said the situation “makes me sad.”
She appeared on NBC’s Today show Monday and took to her Instagram account morning with messages of peace.
“I hope for change and I hope for peace between us even just for three weekends just between me and her,” Matalon said. “We need to remember that we represent the country and the people, not the government and the political issues and that’s it.”
Miss Universe owner Donald Trump also weighed in: “Long-standing hatred.”
Pageant officials called the whole affair “unfortunate.”
Organizers issued this statement: “With 88 women from around the world coming together for the Miss Universe pageant, new friendships are forged and we hope that these relationships can make inroads for change in the future. It is unfortunate to know a photo of four smiling women from different parts of the world, working together at an event, could be misconstrued as anything other than what it is, a celebration of universal friendship, which the Miss Universe pageant is all about.”
The 88 Miss Universe contestants have spent the last couple of weeks in South Florida, touring Miami and based at the Trump National Doral Miami. The pageant will be broadcast live on Sunday from the arena at Florida International University in West Miami-Dade.
Lebanese Tourism Minister Michel Pharon told the Associated Press that “if there was bad intentions” from Miss Lebanon, measures could be taken against her.
Greige has backed away from the seemingly innocent selfie snapped during a visit last week to Wynwood.
She says she was photo-bombed.