Kara McCullough, from D.C., wins Miss USA title, stirs controversy with health care comments


For a town in search of a national championship, the Miss USA contest might not leap immediately to mind — but at least the District can claim back-to-back winners in it.

For the second consecutive year, Miss District of Columbia has won the national title. Outgoing Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber crowned her successor — fellow D.C. resident Kara McCullough — Sunday night at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Miss McCullough, a chemist with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, raised some eyebrows with her answers in the question-and-answer round.

Asked about health care, she said: “I’m definitely going to say [health care’s] a privilege. As a government employee, I am granted health care, and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have a job. Therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunities to have health care as well as jobs to all the American citizens worldwide.”

On feminism, she said: “So as a woman scientist in the government, I’d like to lately transpose the word ‘feminism’ to ‘equalism.’ I don’t really want to consider myself — try not to consider myself like this die-hard, you know, like, ‘Oh, I don’t really care about men.’ But one thing I’m going to say, though, is women, we are just as equal as men when it comes to opportunity in the workplace.”

Ms. McCullough, 25, is an emergency preparedness specialist with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response. She’s been with the organization for four years, originally recruited for the company’s competitive nuclear safety professional development program.