District of Columbia crowned Miss USA 2017

LAS VEGAS, May 14 (Reuters) - A 25-year-old scientist representing the District of Columbia was crowned winner of the Miss USA pageant on Sunday, the second consecutive year that the contestant from the nation's capital won the annual competition.

Kara McCullough, who holds a degree in chemistry and works at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, triumphed over 50 other contestants, including first runner-up Chhavi Verg, representing New Jersey, to claim victory in the contest which was held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

For her question as one of three finalists, McCullough was asked about healthcare rights, and replied that affordable healthcare was a privilege for people who held jobs. The response drew some stinging criticism on social media platforms such as Twitter, but also had its defenders.

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Miss USA 2017 competition
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Miss USA 2017 competition

Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough reacts after being crowned 2017 Miss USA.

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Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough is crowned 2017 Miss USA.

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Miss Minnesota Meredith Gould celebrates after finishing third in the pageant.

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First runner-up Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg (L) congratulates Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough as she is named the winner of the pageant.

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Show hosts Terrence J and Julianne Hough (C) stand with contestants during the evening gown competition.

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The five finalists, Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg, Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough, Miss South Carolina Megan Gordon, Miss Illinois Whitney Wandland and Miss Minnesota Meredith Gould, stand on stage.

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Singer Brett Eldredge performs during the evening gown competition.

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Miss Alaska Alyssa London.

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Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough.

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Miss New York Hannah Lopa.

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Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg.

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Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg.

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Miss Minnesota Meredith Gould.

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Miss Alaska Alyssa London.

REUTERS/David Becker

Miss New York Hannah Lopa.

REUTERS/David Becker

Miss Illinois Whitney Wandland.

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Miss Illinois Whitney Wandland.

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"Twitter is like a war zone," posted one user, referring to opposing reactions to the winner's remarks.

McCullough also took hits for saying she does not call herself a feminist, preferring "equalism," before adding "Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace."

The pageant's other finalist, Meridith Gould, represented Minnesota.

McCullough will go on to compete as the U.S. representative at the annual Miss Universe pageant.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Michael Perry)

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