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Kansas pageant winner calls tweets over ad a mistake; Coke responds to uproar

Updated: 2014-02-06T17:20:53Z

By Suzanne Perez Tobias

The Wichita Eagle

A Kansas woman who received widespread backlash for her tweets about a Super Bowl commercial said Monday that her comments were a “mistake.”

Kasey Knowles, who in November was crowned National American Miss Kansas 2013, was among several people who criticized a Coca-Cola advertisement aired during the Super Bowl. The commercial featured a rendition of “America the Beautiful” sung in multiple languages alongside images of America’s landscape and people.

Many on Twitter criticized the commercial – some called it “un-American” and an “outrage” because it featured languages other than English – and within minutes, #boycottcoke was a trending topic on the social media site.

This week, Coca-Cola responded via e-mail to the backlash surrounding the commercial, which the company titled “It’s Beautiful.”

“For centuries America has opened its arms to people of many countries who have helped to build this great nation. ‘It’s Beautiful’ provides a snapshot of the real lives of Americans representing diverse ethnicities, religions, races and families, all found in the United States,” said company spokeswoman Sheree Robinson. “All those featured in the ad are Americans and ‘America The Beautiful’ was sung by bilingual American young women.

“We believe ‘It’s Beautiful’ is a great example of the magic that makes our country so special, and a powerful message that spreads optimism, promotes inclusion and celebrates humanity – values that are core to Coca-Cola.”

The company also released a YouTube video with a behind-the-scenes look at the Super Bowl ad, including interviews with some of the people featured in the commercial. The multi-lingual version of the song is available on Spotify.

Knowles, whose Twitter profile on Sunday said “Miss Kansas 2013” and featured a photograph of herself wearing a Miss Kansas sash, tweeted during the Super Bowl: “Nothing about that #CocaCola commercial was American.”

About an hour later, she posted, “I’m sorry if you were offended by my previous tweet, but I truly feel that ‘America the Beautiful’ should not be sung in any other language.”

Knowles’ tweets ended up as the punchline of a post on the Public Shaming blog, which called the anti-Coke tweets and subsequent boycott a “racist revolt.”

“But why would this random girl feel the need to apologize?” the blogger wrote beneath a screen shot of Knowles’ Twitter photo and profile. “It’s not like she represents her good ole’ state of Kansas.”

Steve Mayes, national director for National American Miss, based in Houston, confirmed Monday that Knowles is a state representative for the pageant. He said the organization had no opinion or statement about Knowles’ tweets.

“She’s a grown person, able to express herself, and I think she’s given an appropriate response that explains what she did and what her feelings are about it,” Mayes said.

“Her statement pretty much takes care of it.”

On Monday, Knowles deleted the Coke-related tweets from her Twitter page. She also changed her profile picture and removed the “Miss Kansas” reference. She later posted a statement on her Facebook page:

“I wanted to take a moment to sincerely apologize to anyone that may have been offended by my words. I in no way meant to hurt anyone’s feelings and humbly ask that you please accept my deepest apology,” she wrote.

“Social media has made it even easier to broadcast your opinions faster than you have time to say them out loud. I accept my fault in this action but also ask others to grant me the freedom of that mistake,” she wrote in the statement. “As Ghandi once said, ‘Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.’ ”

Knowles could not be reached for comment.

“I ask that during this time you please respect my privacy,” she wrote. “I am fully aware of the articles, tweets, and Facebook posts and have been monitoring them closely but at this time I feel this should be my only response.”

Knowles’ earlier tweets remained on the Public Shaming blog and continued to be circulated online Monday, prompting one tweeter to post, “Who knew #MissKansas was such a racist?”

Knowles has no affiliation with the Miss Kansas organization in Pratt, the official state preliminary for the Miss America pageant. Last fall before the national pageant, Miss Kansas Theresa Vail generated national attention when she announced that she would have her two tattoos visibly exposed during the competition. She is thought to be the first contestant in the history of the pageant to do so.

On Tuesday, officials with the Miss Kansas organization released the following statement:

“Over the past 24 hours, a series of Tweets have been communicated by ‘Miss Kansas 2013’ regarding the Coca Cola commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl. This person is not Miss Kansas 2013, Theresa Vail, a Miss America Top-10 Finalist and America’s Choice recipient at the 2014 Miss America Pageant. The opinions being communicated are not the opinions of the Miss Kansas Organization or Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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