Miss Universe judge Emily Austin calls Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro 'illegitimate' after he alleged the pageant was rigged

Austin also told Fox News that she thinks Maduro "cheated his way" to the presidency and should focus on bigger issues than Miss Universe.

A judge for the Miss Universe 2022 pageant called Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro "illegitimate" after the leader said the title was stolen from his country's representative.

Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel was crowned the winner of the competition on January 14 in New Orleans, Louisiana. In a Twitter video shared two days later, Maduro can be heard saying the crown was "stolen" from Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel, who placed as the first runner-up.

"They stole our Miss Universe. Amanda Dudamel won on the street, well it can't be a robbery like that," Maduro said, according to a translation.

Latin American news site Remezcla reports that Maduro was speaking at a military meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, at the time.

Miss Universe judge Emily Austin said in an interview with Fox News published Friday that Maduro's criticism was hypocritical.

"It's so funny because Maduro is literally an illegitimate president and cheated his way there," she said. "It's like when a thief calls another thief out," said Austin.

Austin also told the outlet that Miss USA was not her first choice to win and instead wanted Miss Dominican Republic Andreína Martínez to take the title. She added that she still thought Gabriel was "very well deserving of it" and that the Venezuelan leader should focus his attention elsewhere.

"It deters from what's really going on. And they do treat it like a World Cup. He's showing, 'Look, I have this national pride,' but he's destroying his own country," she said. "I feel like he has bigger problems to deal with than Miss Universe."

Miss Venezuela, Miss USA, and Miss Dominican Republic compete in the 71st annual Miss Universe.

The Miss Universe Organization chief executive Amy Emmerich also defended Gabriel's wins in both the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants in a statement to the Los Angeles Times on January 18. In October, Insider's Anneta Konstantinides spoke to several contestants from Miss USA 2022 who also thought the event was rigged.

"The allegations re: rigging of Miss Universe are false," she said. "People saying that its 'suspect' that JKN Global Group owns both Miss Universe and Miss USA aren't familiar with the history of the organizations. One of the top 4 accounting firms in the United States handled the results and verified the process."

The statement continued: "R'Bonney has been a strong and dedicated contestant. She is the rightful Miss Universe. I look forward to this much attention being focused on her non-profit work as well."