Miss America Organization, Reeling From Email Scandal, Revamps Board

A board shakeup at the Miss America Organization was announced this week after reports that its CEO and others at MAO had repeatedly made sexist comments about former winners in email communications. Four one-time Miss Americas will join the board, including former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson, who will become the organization’s chairwoman.

The Miss America Organization (MAO), which puts on the annual scholarship pageant, was put in a difficult leadership position last month. Now, it’s emerging on the other side with an array of new but familiar faces on its board—including well-known news anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Last month, The Huffington Post revealed that leaders at the organization, including its CEO, Sam Haskell, had made critical and at times sexist remarks about former pageant winners, while allowing subordinates to do the same.

The news outlet, which reviewed nearly three years of the organization’s emails, wrote that the messages “reveal a CEO who regularly wrote and responded to unprofessional, offensive emails about the women who poured their hearts into the pageants and the organization he was leading.”

Haskell resigned from his post soon after, as did COO Josh Randle and Chairwoman Lynn Weidner.

An Advocate Becomes Chairwoman

To right the ship, the organization is turning to a number of former Miss America winners, including 1989 winner Carlson, who became a prominent voice against workplace sexual harassment after suing the parent company of her former employer, Fox News.

Carlson claimed her career had been derailed by Fox News then-CEO Roger Ailes after she rejected his multiple advances. Ailes, who died last year, resigned in the wake of the accusations from Carlson and others, one of the first high-profile cases in the recent wave of revelations about sexual harassment in the workplace. Carlson received a settlement.

Carlson will serve as MAO board chair. “Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” Carlson said in a statement to HuffPost. “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.”

Joining her on the board will be Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, Miss America 2000 Heather French Henry, and Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle.

The shakeup came after a number of pageant winners called on MAO board members to resign after 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagan revealed that the board had been made aware of the emails months ago.

Dick Clark Productions, which controlled two board seats, resigned from those seats and ended its production contract with the organization, USA Today reported last week .

Gretchen Carlson, the new Miss America board chair, speaking at a TED event in November. (TED Conference/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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