Most Miss America Organization board members have now resigned in the wake of an email scandal, and former Miss America Gretchen Carlson has joined the board as chairwoman, a spokesperson said in a press release Monday.
Three other former Miss Americas also have joined the board, the release said, including Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998.
A group of former Miss Americas has been seeking new leadership for the organization since the email scandal broke in December. They wanted women — particularly former title holders — to take more of a leadership role in the almost 100-year-old pageant.
Shindle, now president of Actors Equity, wrote a book critical of MAO finances and leadership after her reign. She was the subject of some hateful emails between former MAO Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman Sam Haskell and others. One email joked about wishing Shindle would die.
The others who joined the board are Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, Miss America 2012; and Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000.
Some MAO emails showed Haskell and other officials shamed former contestants, using vulgar and lewd language. They also criticized their appearance, intelligence and sex lives.
After the resignations of Haskell, Chief Operating Officer Josh Randle, Board Chairwoman Lynn Weidner and Board Vice Chairwoman Tammy Haddad, the board said it would enlist the help of former Miss Americas to replace them.
But a group led by Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan demanded in a petition the whole board resign. Hagan and others also led another effort to have Carlson become board chair.
“This group of women is going to be the best thing that has happened to Miss America in a long time,” Hagan said Monday. “They are going to be transparent and honest, and that really excites me.”
Hagan was the subject of some of the worst of the emails, in which Haskell and pageant head writer Lewis Friedman speculated about her sex life.
Carlson is a former Fox News journalist who won a $20 million sexual harassment settlement from Fox after suing News Chairman Roger Ailes. She was Miss America 1989. She is also a former MAO board member.
The press release did not say which members of the board have resigned and which are still in place, and the MAO spokeswoman said further details will come later.
But Interim Board Chairman Dan Meyers said in the press statement that resignations from the board were timed to ensure the organization had a continuing governance structure.
“It has been important to the Directors that incoming leadership be provided with what it needs to drive this American icon in a new direction,” Meyers said.
Hagan has said Meyers himself must resign.
Carlson thanked the board of directors for their personal and financial support to the organization over many years.
“Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” she said. “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.”
Carlson said she and the new board will 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 sponsors, “seeking input while creating a viable, forward-looking Miss America Organization for this and future generations of young women,” she said.
The Miss America Organization is a 501©4 nonprofit organization, which oversees a national network of 51 organizations, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Dick Clark Productions, the competition’s television partner, has severed ties with the MAO because of the emails. A $4 million Casino Reinvestment Development Authority subsidy could also be pulled.