Forty-nine former Miss Americas called Friday for the national organization’s top leadership to resign, less than 24 hours after HuffPost revealed internal Miss America Organization emails filled with misogynistic, fat-shaming and slut-shaming language.
Later Friday, CEO Sam Haskell was suspended by the organization’s board of directors.
“The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell,” the board’s statement said. “Mr. Haskell, in support of the organization, has agreed to abide by the Board’s decision. The Board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained. In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”
Former Miss Americas, including 87-year-old BeBe Shopp Waring, who was crowned in 1948, and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who was crowned in 1989, signed an open letter Friday. In it, the women called on Haskell, Miss America President Josh Randle, board Chair Lynn Weidner and board member Tammy Haddad to resign.
Haddad also resigned after the letter’s publication, saying that “the women who put their hopes and dreams into this program are the best of America.”
The emails that HuffPost revealed included fat-shaming former Miss America Mallory Hagan, who won the pageant in 2013, as well as rumors and innuendo about her sex life. In other instances, Haskell replied “Perfect...bahahaha” to the suggestion that a writer change a telecast script to refer to prior winners as “cunts” and also laughed at an email suggesting one of the winners should die. Emails also suggest organization leadership, particularly Haskell, Weidner and Haddad, worked to destroy one winner’s business as an interview coach to prospective Miss America contestants.
As Miss Americas, we strongly reject the mischaracterizations of us both collectively and individually.open letter from 49 Miss Americas
In the letter, the former Miss Americas say they are “deeply disturbed and saddened to learn of the sickening and egregious words used by Miss America leadership in reference both to our group and to specific members of our sisterhood.”
“As dedicated members of communities, businesses and families, and ambassadors for the Miss America program across the country, we stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming—especially of women—through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean. As Miss Americas, we strongly reject the mischaracterizations of us both collectively and individually. We also reject the ongoing efforts to divide our sisterhood and the attempts to pit us against one another,” it says.
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian joined the women Friday in their campaign. The pageant takes place annually in the city, which helps subsidize the event.
Former Miss America CEO Leonard Horn also urged Haskell to leave the organization, saying, “Resign Sam.....your attitude towards these women, as expressed in your e-mails, is blatantly antagonistic to the core mission of MAO.”
In a statement to HuffPost in response to the report revealing the emails, the Miss America Organization said it had been notified months ago about the inappropriate emails and had taken action by firing the lead writer for the telecast, the “most egregious author of inappropriate comments.”
“The Board has full confidence in the Miss America Organization leadership team,” the organization said. “In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”
See the full letter from the women below:
This story has been updated to include Haskell’s suspension, a statement from former CEO Leonard Horn, the Atlantic City mayor’s support and Haddad’s resignation.
Follow Yashar — or send him a tip — on Twitter: @yashar