Asya Branch, the newly crowned Miss USA, has responded to critics who say she’s a supporter of President Donald Trump.
Shortly after the Mississippi native won the Miss USA title on Monday, Nov. 9, social media sleuths discovered Branch once sang the National Anthem at a Trump rally and attended a White House meeting with Trump on criminal justice reform.
The backlash was instant, but Branch told People magazine it’s misguided.
“Regardless of political beliefs, I find it an honor to be able to sing the national anthem anywhere and it just so happened to be at a Trump rally,” Branch said.
She would not elaborate on her political believes, but said as Miss Mississippi she was “under contractual obligation” to perform at the event.
“And I know I caught a lot of backlash for that. But no one knows if that has anything to do with my political beliefs or not. I did have a duty as an employee of the Miss Mississippi Corp. as well as a representative of the state of Mississippi,” she added.
Branch is an advocate for criminal justice reform, and said she found it “moving” to take part in the White House meeting on the issue.
“If you can’t get a seat at the table, you can’t make a difference. I found that to be an inspiring and moving moment for me because it shows that I can accomplish things and I can accomplish my goals and really make a difference in the world,” she said.
Branch was the first Black woman to be named Miss Mississippi USA, and the first contestant from the Magnolia State to win the Miss USA title.