The CEO of Miss America organization Sam Haskell has been suspended after he made sexist and disparaging comments about Miss America contestants and winners in emails addressed to other members of the organization. He had been heading the pageant since 2005 and was made the executive chairman in 2015.
"The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell. Mr. Haskell, in support of the organization, has agreed to abide by the Board's decision," said a statement by the organization's spokesperson to The Hollywood Reporter. The decision came a day after HuffPost revealed internal emails where Haskell described the appearances of contestants crudely and also used offensive words to describe their body.
The Miss America Board has stated that an investigation will be conducted into "alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained." It also emphasized on their commitment towards the "education and empowerment of young women."
The published emails contained jokes about past winners of the pageant, even calling them a "pile of malcontents" at one point. On the subject of former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley's death, Haskell comments, "It should have been Kate Shindle." Shindle, who was crowned Miss Illinois in 1998, went on to accuse Haskell of blacklisting people he did not get along with.
The contestants, earlier called "Forever Miss Americas", had been relabelled "formers", which was mentioned as a joke in the emails, where they were called a derogatory term for female genitals. HuffPost reported that Haskell had also indulged in body-shaming the contestants, calling former Miss America Mallory Hagan "a blimp in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade," along with other negative comments.
Another target of the emails is Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989 and a member of the organization's board of directors for several years. Haskell had an objection to her efforts of modernizing the organization and her refusal to attack other winners.
Dick Clark Productions, the pageant's sponsors, issued a statement saying, "Several months ago, Dick Clark Productions was made aware of a portion of the emails that were referenced in the December 21 Huffington Post article. 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. Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them."
The accused Haskell has given a confusing statement regarding the allegations. While calling the claims "unkind and untrue", he went in to admit that he had been "under attack" for a year by two Miss America winners, the stress of which had affected his judgement. He also said "my mistake was a mistake of words" and did not clarify which part of the allegations was untrue.