Beauty pageant winner Miss Belgium has been accused of being a racist just days after winning her crown.
Miss Belgium Romanie Schotte wrote "I know" next to a poo emoji after a follower wrote the N-word to describe the black man in the background of a selfie she took and posted on Instagram.
To counter the racist charge, the 19-year-old stated her businessman father Christof Schotte "mainly works in Africa," the Daily Mail reports.
Christof defended his daughter's actions, claiming she used the emoji in the context of the man "photo-bombing" her selfie image rather than making an offensive comment about his race.
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From his Bruges office, Christof stated: "Romanie is not a racist. We are an open family who welcome people from all different backgrounds."
"Romanie used the emoji to say 'oh s***.'” She was surprised that this man had worked his way into her picture," he said. "She certainly did not want to cause any offense."
As an international energy consultant, Christof stated he has worked "all over Africa," mostly in Uganda and Rwanda.
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He stated: "Romanie does not travel with me because I go there for work. But we have an open, tolerant philosophy in the family. And her brother Lorenz spent a year living with a family in Morocco."
He spoke on behalf of his daughter, giving her apology, "She said: 'if anyone felt offended by something that I wrote or said then I apologize.' But she is not a racist."
He added: "In fact Romanie has been on TV to apologize for any offense. She has said if anyone was offended by the tweet then she is sorry. The audience applauded her and a black man asked to have his picture taken with her and she agreed."
In a statement issued through Miss Belgium's organizers, the pageant winner reiterated she was "not racist."
"I am open to all cultures and people. My father mainly works in Africa, therefore how on earth could I afford to be racist?" she said, reports The Sun.
Christof pointed out Miss Belgium pageant officials have decided not to investigate the matter.
Romanie, a business management student at Gent University, was a longshot candidate for the 2017 Miss Belgium title.
Christof claims his daughter has been the target of a discrediting campaign carried out by critics who investigated her posts on social media.
"The picture was taken on a bus in Brussels in May last year ," he said. "These people even worked out which bus it was. They were trying so hard to find something bad about her."
An online petition to have her de-crowned had gathered more than 6,000 signatures by Jan. 20.