Gretchen Carlson takes over Miss America organization after email scandal
ATLANTIC CITY — Former Fox News Channel anchor and 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson was named chairwoman of the Miss America Organization's board of directors Monday, and three other past pageant winners will join her on the board.
The new leadership comes less than two weeks after leaked emails surfaced showing CEO Sam Haskell and others disparaging the appearance, intellect and sex lives of former Miss Americas. Haskell resigned Dec. 23, along with two other top leaders.
The selection of Carlson marks the first time a former pageant winner has served as the leader of the nearly 100-year-old organization. The organization also announced the appointments of three other past Miss Americas: 2012 winner Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, 2000 winner Heather French Henry and Kate Shindle, who won in 1998 and now serves as president of the Actors' Equity Association. Their appointments take effect immediately, as does Carlson's.
"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 issued by the Miss America Organization. "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."
Since leaving Fox News, Carlson has maintained a high profile by speaking out against sexual harassment in the workplace. In 2016, she settled a lawsuit she filed against disgraced Fox News founder Roger Ailes, a New Jersey resident she accused of retaliation after alleged sexual harassment against her. Ailes was fired with multi-million-dollar severance as a result of the allegations.
Carlson said she and the new board would immediately work with all Miss America stakeholders, including the organization's state executive directors and former state titleholders, "to continue an ongoing inclusive and transparent process to identify additional new board members and management."
The new board also looks forward to working with the organization's many sponsors, "seeking input while creating a viable, forward-looking Miss America Organization for this and future generations of young women," Carlson said.
In the emails published last month by the Huffington Post, pageant officials ridiculed the appearance, intellect and sex lives of former Miss Americas. One email used a vulgar term for female genitalia to refer to past Miss America winners, another included a wish that a particular former Miss America had died and others speculated about the number of sex partners former Miss America Mallory Hagan has had.
The ensuing uproar led to the resignations of Haskell; the group's president, Josh Randle; board chairwoman Lynn Weidner, and another board member.
The emails already cost the pageant its television production partner and raised questions about the future of the nationally televised broadcast from Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall the week after Labor Day each year.
Dick Clark Productions cut ties with the Miss America Organization over the emails, calling them "appalling."
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