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NPR writer 'slightly' defends Miss Utah USA's botched answer during national competition

Published: Monday, June 17 2013 3:20 p.m. MDT

From left, recording artist and host Nick Jonas, television personality and host Giuliana Rancic look on as Miss Utah Marissa Powell answers a question from the judges during the interview portion of the Miss USA 2013 pageant, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari) (Jeff Bottari, FR170524AP) From left, recording artist and host Nick Jonas, television personality and host Giuliana Rancic look on as Miss Utah Marissa Powell answers a question from the judges during the interview portion of the Miss USA 2013 pageant, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari) (Jeff Bottari, FR170524AP)

Miss Utah USA Marissa Powell gained national attention for her answer during the Miss USA 2013 pageant Sunday, but was her question impossible to answer?

Linda Holmes, a writer and editor for NPR, "slightly" defends Miss Utah USA "with reservations," saying her question was not only "dumb" but was an impossible question to answer.

Holmes argues that the question given by celebrity NeNe Leakes was not one question, rather three questions.

"What does it say that in 40 percent of homes, women are the primary earners, or what does it say that women earn less than men, or what does it say that we allow these two facts to coexist?" Holmes wrote. "What would have been a good answer to this question that could have been delivered in the time frame she had?"

The top five Miss USA finalists pose onstage during the Miss USA 2013 pageant, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari) (Jeff Bottari, ASSOCIATED PRESS) The top five Miss USA finalists pose onstage during the Miss USA 2013 pageant, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari) (Jeff Bottari, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Holmes continues that although the topic was one that she had studied for years, she had no idea what she would have said if she were asked the same question on live television.

"These dumb questions aren't intended to actually see whether you're smart or not. Miss Utah USA might be smart and she might not be, but the last thing I'd use to guess at whether she's smart is whether she can answer this kind of question 'correctly,'" Holmes wrote. "Because 'correctly' here just means smoothly, expertly, without hesitation or stammering."

Holmes concludes that had Miss Utah USA given an irrelevant answer solely about families or living in the United States, she wouldn't have been critized in the news. Holmes believes Miss Utah USA is solely "in the news for being bad at spontaneous but convincing balderdash manufacturing.

The top six Miss USA finalists pose onstage during the Miss USA 2013 pageant, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari) (Jeff Bottari, FR170524AP) The top six Miss USA finalists pose onstage during the Miss USA 2013 pageant, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari) (Jeff Bottari, FR170524AP)

She's not a dumb person; she's bad at public speaking. And if she were good at it, nobody would have ever heard of her."

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