Miss America CEO Has Resigned Over Crude Emails Criticizing The Looks Of Former Contestants
Sam Haskell apologized for the statements made in private emails, but said he wrote them when he was "under stress from a full year of attacks by two Miss Americas."
The chief executive of the Miss America Organization resigned on Saturday over crude emails criticizing and deriding former contestants of the competition.
The resignation of Miss America CEO Sam Haskell, which is effective immediately, came one day after he was suspended over the controversy.
The organization's president and chief operating officer, Josh Randle, and board chair Lynn Weidner also resigned, interim chairman Dan Meyers said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
In the emails, reported by HuffPost on Thursday, Haskell criticized former winners, calling them derogatory terms and at times laughing or encouraging other executives at the organization who also insulted them.
When the lead writer of the pageant telecast in 2014 joked to Haskell that he would stop calling former contestants "forevers" and instead call them "cunts," Haskell reportedly replied, "Perfect...bahahaha."
The revelation of the emails prompted a strong rebuke, including from 49 Miss America pageant winners who called on Haskell and other leaders of the organization to quit.
"We stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming — especially of women — through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean," the pageant winners wrote, according to the New York Times.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Haskell described the emails published by HuffPost as "conveniently edited," and said that they came from former employees who stole them.
"Much of what was reported is dishonest, deceptive, and despicable," Haskell said. "The story is so unkind and untrue, and hurts me, my family, and the stewardship of this nonprofit."
He apologized for the statements, but said they were written during a time when he was "under stress from a full year of attacks by two Miss Americas."
"This was not the CEO of an organization laughing at inappropriate jokes and speaking about a former Miss America in email conversations," Haskell said in his statement. "This was a father whose family was being attacked, and a man whose character was being assassinated daily, which impaired my judgement when responding to the inappropriate emails sent to me about them. For that, I deeply apologize."
Many of the emails published by HuffPost involved Haskell responding positively or seemingly agreeing with emails written by other officials criticizing or insulting former contestants.
In one, he laughed when an employee suggested a former contestant should be dead.
Others, like a Jan. 25, 2015, email that had pictures of three former contestants, were written by him.
"OMG she is huge...and gross...why does he want that?????" Haskell reportedly wrote responding to the email and referring to Mallory Hagan, who was crowned Miss America in 2013.
Haskell was also referring to Brent Adams, a former employee of Haskell's who was dating Hagan at the time.
"I have the utmost respect for women of this program and contestants at every level," Haskell said in the statement. "It breaks my heart for anyone to think otherwise. My mistake is a mistake of words."
In a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday, Randle apologized for his response to the email about Hagan, in which he said, “She’s a healthy one!! Hahaha."
Randle added that he'd sent that email before he began working for the Miss America Organization in 2015, and that his resignation had been unrequested and voluntary.
“I apologize to Mallory for my lapse in judgment,” Randle told the AP. “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.
“I feel terrible, but this is the right thing to do."
In his statement Saturday, Meyers said officials would be working in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth leadership transition.
"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," Meyers said.
Haskell is not the only official from the Miss America Organization to face consequences since the emails were published.
According to HuffPost, Lewis Friedman, the lead writer of the telecast in 2014, was let go several months ago after the board of directors learned about the language in the email.
The Miss America Organization said it will also be conducting an investigation into "inappropriate communications" between officials, and how they were released to the press.