Miss America CEO Resigns After Gross Emails Surfaced & He's Not The Only One Stepping Down
According to reports out Saturday, the CEO and executive chairman of the Miss America Organization, Sam Haskell, has resigned from his position following the leak of a collection of emails in which he wrote demeaning things about former pageant winners. Along with Haskell, a pair of other prominent Miss America executives ― COO and president Josh Randle, and board chair Lynn Weidner ― are also departing from the organization.
Haskell became embroiled in controversy and scandal this week when HuffPost reported on the series of gross and sexist emails. Among other things, the emails used vulgar and misogynistic language to refer to former Miss America competitors. The revelations led a slew of former Miss Americas to speak out. The former pageant winners called for reforms at the organization and for action to be taken against Haskell.
For his part, Haskell characterized the HuffPost report as "dishonest, deceptive, and despicable" in a statement on Friday. The official announcement that he was leaving the organization came just a day after news broke that he was being suspended. The Miss America Organization confirmed Haskell's resignation to The New York Daily News on Saturday afternoon, bringing his tenure atop the iconic beauty pageant to an end.
The official announcement reportedly came just hours after Randle turned in his own resignation. On Friday, as CNN detailed, a staggering 49 former Miss Americas weighed in on the controversy, calling for Haskell's dismissal in light of his use of "derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean":
As dedicated members of communities, businesses and families, and ambassadors for the Miss America program across the country, we stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming -- especially of women -- through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean.
In the email that drew the most attention and scrutiny, Haskell wrote to former Miss America telecast writer Lewis Friedman to inform him that Miss America winners from previous years should no longer be referred to as "Forever Miss Americas," but rather "former Miss Americas." Friedman, who has since been let go from the organization following an investigation, responded that he'd like to replace the title "Forevers" with "c**ts" instead. "Perfect...bahahaha," Haskell replied, according to HuffPost.
In another series of emails, Haskell and Friedman mocked and demeaned 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagan, speculating about her sex life and making vulgar comments about her body. Hagan responded on NBC's TODAY on Friday:
"For the longest time, I've tried to explain to people around me that this is happening or these things are being said. I felt validated in my feelings for the last couple of years."
It remains to be seen who will rise up to replace Haskell and Randle atop the Miss America Organization. According to a statement from Miss America Organization interim board chairman Dan Meyers, Weidner was asked and agreed to stay on for a few more months in order to help smooth the transition.
Haskell has not been shy about defending himself and attacking HuffPost's reporting since the story broke on Thursday. In a statement to BuzzFeed, he reportedly described the emails the site released as being "conveniently edited," and blamed their release on them having been stolen by a former employee. By all accounts, his resignation is effective immediately.