Historically, participants of the Miss America scholarship pageant have advocated that the contest celebrates more than just beauty and gives women the opportunity to use their talent, intelligence, and appearance to compete for $50,000 in scholarship funding.
But emails sent from Miss America CEO Sam Haskell prove that he maybe never got the memo that the contest was about more than just judging a woman’s body.
The emails uncovered by HuffPost reveal that Haskell had a knack for slut-shaming and fat-shaming former and current Miss America contestants with his colleagues.
In August 2014, the lead writer of the Miss America pageant telecast, Lewis Friedman, joked in an email to Haskell that all former contestants would be referred to as “cunts.” Haskell’s response? ““Perfect…bahahaha.”
1. Exclusive: In emails I obtained, Miss America CEO @samhaskell, along with other board members and staff, repeatedly maligned, attacked, and slut shamed former Miss Americas.— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) December 21, 2017
Link To My Story: https://t.co/fyv26kDt55 pic.twitter.com/XXsHrT3MtH
Another email speculated about how many men former Miss America Mallory Hagan had had sex with and ridiculed her over a bathing suit photo in which she appeared to have gained weight from when she competed in and won the pageant.
While Hagan declined to comment to HuffPost for its story, she did tweet about the story on Thursday.
“I just wanted to say that the story that broke today is one that is extremely difficult to re-live,” she said in a live video. “I’ve felt very strongly about these things over the last couple of years, and just didn’t have any way to prove that they were happening.
Full confidence in a man who thinks it’s “perfect!” to call the women who are Miss Americas c*nts. Never mind what he’s repeatedly said about me.— Mallory Hytes Hagan (@ItsMalloryHagan) December 21, 2017
Next. 👋🏻 https://t.co/pGTP6ysOJK
The surfacing of these emails, along with others, have caused Dick Clark Productions to cut ties with the Miss America Organization, according to the Associated Press.
“We were appalled by their unacceptable content and insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the Miss America Organization board of directors conduct a comprehensive investigation and take appropriate action to address the situation,” the company said in a statement. “Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them.”
The Miss America Organization also released its own statement and said Haskell, who earns $500,000 a year as CEO, apologized to the board for his comments. It’s unclear if he also apologized to the women mentioned by name in the emails.
Former Miss America contestants tweeted in support of firing Haskell and agreed that the leadership of the Miss America Organization needed to reflect the pageants values.
As a former @MissAmerica contestant, I'm appalled by these allegations. The intelligent, talented, dynamic women of this program deserve more than this kind of "leadership." #MissAmerica https://t.co/wK9BSeUx82— Allyn Rose (@AllynRose) December 22, 2017
As a former who was blackballed after calling SH out about the way he spoke about my mom in an e-mail none of this surprises me. This is why I always stood beside @ItsMalloryHagan& offered my stories of mistreatment to @kateshindle when she wrote her book #FireSamHaskell— Caressa Cameron-Jackson (@CaressedxDesign) December 22, 2017
Hagan said in her video on Twitter that the HuffPost story made her feel validated in concerns she’d had for years. She stressed, however, that Haskell’s actions were not representative of the Miss America Organization as a whole.
“If you’re a supporter of Miss America—or you’re new to the Miss America Organization via this story that broke via the Huffington Post—then I want you to know that the women who participate in Miss America, the volunteers who help run the organization and the sponsors who are a part of this program value strong, smart, independent young women, and aspire to see them succeed both professionally and scholastically,” she said. “In no way would I ever want to see this organization go away.”
Update 2:10pm CT, Dec. 23: Haskell has resigned from his position as CEO, according to Ali. Josh Randle, the COO of the organization, and Board Chair Lynn Weidner also have resigned.
“At the Board’s request, Ms. Weidner has agreed to remain on the Board for up to 90 days to facilitate a smooth transition for the MAO to new leadership,” Dan Meyers, the interim chairman, told the Huffington Post. “The Board thanks Lynn and Sam for many years of tireless work for, and significant financial support to, both the Miss America Organization and thousands of young women who received millions of dollars of educational scholarships from the Organization as a direct result of their efforts.”