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John Oliver Reveals the Sleazy, Misleading Nature of Miss America Scholarships

By Dustin Rowles | Videos | September 22, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | Videos | September 22, 2013 |


Last night’s featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver tackled Miss America pageants, which seemed strange for a major news issue program that devoted 15 minutes a week to one topic. Miss America pageants? I mean, sure they are frivolous and sexist, in ways that pundits have been bemoaning for years, or even decades (not that it’s done much good, because women in swimsuits are still trotted out and judged like cattle), but why does it make it John Oliver worthy?

You’d be surprised.

Oliver does go back over some of the sexist terrain, as well the absurdity of the current events questions that are asked of the pageant contestants (Solve ISIS. You have 20 seconds. GO!). But besides describing Donald trump as a “clown made of mummified foreskin and cotton candy,” the best bit from the segment was on the Miss America scholarships.

The Miss America organization, you see, advertises itself as “the biggest scholarship organization in the nation for women with $45 million made available for women.”

It turns out that the made available phraseology is an important one here, because — after doing a week’s worth of research — Oliver found that the Miss America pageant only gives away a fraction of that.

Jump to the 7:20 mark to see what kind of crazy, misleading and sleazy math the Miss America pageant uses so that it can boast that huge figure. It’s mindblowing how they arrive at that figure, and even more mindblowing that they get away with it.



Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.



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