Three executives of the Miss America Organization resigned on Saturday after reports that the pageant’s leadership had attacked and derided former pageant winners in emails.
Dan Meyers, a spokesman for Miss America, said the organization had accepted the resignations of Sam Haskell, the chief executive; Josh Randle, the president; and Lynn Weidner, the chairwoman.
Mr. Haskell’s resignation was effective immediately, Mr. Meyers said, while Mr. Randle and Ms. Weidner will remain in their roles for several weeks to “facilitate a smooth transition.”
The emails, published by HuffPost on Thursday, showed that Mr. Haskell had made comments about former pageant winners that were disrespectful and misogynistic, with support, in some cases, from other members of the organization.
In one of the emails, Mr. Haskell expressed amusement when an employee used a vulgar reference to female genitalia to describe the former pageant winners.
In a letter, reported by HuffPost on Friday, 49 former pageant winners said the behavior of Mr. Haskell and several other top leaders was “despicable” and called for their resignation. The signatories included winners of pageants from 1948 to 2017.
“We stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming — especially of women — through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean,” they wrote.
The others named in the letter included Mr. Randle, Ms. Weidner and another member of the board, Tammy Haddad. Ms. Haddad resigned on Friday, fulfilling an intention announced internally earlier this year, she said.
Gretchen Carlson, the journalist and author, who previously served on the board of the Miss America Organization, and Kate Shindle, the actor and writer, were among the pageant winners who signed the letter.
In a statement on Saturday, they called the resignations “reassuring,” but called for the organization’s entire board to step down.
“We will continue to demand the resignations of every individual who either participated in the abuse of women or stood by and was complicit,” they said.
The statement added: “The women of Miss America are determined to take back our program. This is not over yet.”
The emails indicate that Mr. Haskell had privately shamed one former pageant winner, Mallory Hagan, over her weight and sex life and had engaged in a campaign to fight what he perceived as her attacks, according to HuffPost.
He had derided Ms. Hagan, who was named Miss America in 2013, as “a piece of trash” to one Miss America Organization employee, Brent Adams, who spoke to HuffPost. Mr. Adams said that he was romantically involved with Ms. Hagan at the time and that Mr. Haskell had instead wanted him to date Mr. Haskell’s daughter.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr. Randle said that in January 2015 — more than two months before he began work at the organization — “I inappropriately responded to an email sent to my personal email account about a former Miss America.”
Referring to HuffPost, he added: “The article implies alleged complicit participation on my part in a yearslong array of inappropriate email communication, which is grossly misleading. Furthermore, the most egregious emails were exchanged in 2013 and 2014 and predate my employment altogether.”
In his statement, Mr. Randle said he apologized to Ms. Hagan for his “lapse in judgment.”
Other emails cited by HuffPost showed that Mr. Haskell had laughed when an employee suggested that a former pageant winner should be dead and appeared to express delight at the idea of needling Ms. Carlson.
The emails caused the pageant to lose a key broadcast partner, Dick Clark Productions, after they were shared several months ago.
“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,” the production company said in a statement to The New York Times on Friday. “Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them.”
Ms. Haddad, a Washington media consultant, and Ms. Weidner, a Las Vegas socialite, had strategized with Mr. Haskell on how to respond to Ms. Hagan, according to HuffPost.
In a statement, Ms. Haddad said that she had spent 14 years as a volunteer member of the organization’s board and praised the women in the program. She also said that she had “the highest regard” for Ms. Carlson.
In one of the emails, Ms. Weidner appeared to suggest that the organization’s decision to limit the help contestants can receive in preparation for the competition had hurt Ms. Hagan’s coaching business. In a statement to HuffPost, she defended Mr. Haskell, adding that, at the time, he was being “ruthlessly attacked by a handful of disgruntled malcontents.”
In a live recording shared on Twitter early Friday morning, Ms. Hagan, at times emotional, responded to the story, saying that she felt validated and hoped it would lead to changes within the organization.
“My hope is that this story that broke will bring light to the type of behavior that’s been in the leadership of the Miss America Organization and really help us put in place some people who care and who embody the mission of Miss America,” she said.
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