The role of Miss America is one that is coveted by young girls around the country every year, with families dedicating enormous amounts of time and money in order to give their daughters the best chance at winning the title. However, after emails defaming the competition’s board were released, the glamor of winning such a competition may have faded.
The series of emails, released by The Huffington Post earlier last year, detail Miss America Organization’s (AMO) chief executive Sam Haskell‘s degrading and misogynistic comments about Mallory Hagan, a former contestant of the competition. His comments were supported by other members of the board, including president Josh Randle and chairwoman Lynn Weidner. Haskell is to resign almost immediately, while Randle and Weidner are to remain in their roles until someone can be trained to take their places.
Call for Haskell’s resignation was a fire lit by 49 previous pageant winners, including actress Kate Shindle and journalist Gretchen Carlson. “We stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming – especially of women – through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean,” they wrote in a letter. “We will continue to demand the resignations of every individual who either participated in the abuse of women or stood by and was complicit.
“The women of Miss America are determined to take back our program,” the letter continues. “This is not over yet.”
Haskell apologized almost immediately, citing a stressful year as the source of his derogatory behavior towards Hagan. He claims that much of what was reported by The Huffington Post was “dishonest, deceptive, and despicable” and “a mistake of words” in a statement a few weeks ago.
“This was not the CEO of an Organization laughing at inappropriate jokes and speaking about a former Miss America in email conversations,” he said in a statement. “This was a father whose family was being attacked, and a man whose character was being assassinated daily, which impaired my judgment when responding to the inappropriate emails sent to me about them.”
“I apologize to Mallory for my lapse in judgment. It does not reflect my values or the values I worked to promote at the Miss America Organization. Although this terrible situation was not caused or driven by me, in light of recent events and new developments, I am no longer willing to continue in my capacity as president and earlier today offered my resignation to the MAO Board of Directors.”
Not only does the organization seem to be losing its reputation due to the email scandal, but it seems to be losing its advertisers as well: AMO lost the sponsorship of Dick Clark Productions as soon as the company heard of the emails.
Upon hearing about the call for resignation as well as Haskell’s resignation, Hagan, the original subject of the emails, responded to the scandal with hopeful optimism. “My hope is that this story that broke will bring light to the type of behavior that’s been in the leadership of the Miss America Organization and really help us put in place some people who care and who embody the mission of Miss America,” Hagan said.
Carlson was elected as a new chief executive on Monday. “Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” she said in a statement. “In the end, we all want a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future.”
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