Three top leaders in the Miss America Organization resigned Saturday, almost two days after vulgar emails surfaced showing officials using disparaging language and mocking former winners.
Miss America Organization CEO and Executive Chairman Sam Haskell, President and Chief Operating Officer Josh Randle and Board of Directors Chairman Lynn Weidner all resigned Saturday.
A story published Thursday by the Huffington Post exposed emails showing Haskell and other officials shamed former contestants, using vulgar and lewd language and criticizing their appearance, intelligence and sex lives.
In a statement from Dan Meyers, interim chairman of the Miss America Organization board, the board accepted Haskell’s resignation “effective immediately,” as well as the resignation of Weid-ner and Randle. Weidner will remain on the board for as many as 90 days and Randle will remain “for several weeks” for a “smooth transition,” the statement said.
“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,” the statement said.
The content of the emails created questions about the future of the nationally televised competition from Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Miss America’s television partner, dick clark productions, severed its ties with the organization Thursday night, leaving the competition with no broadcast.
State lawmakers Friday called on the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to pull a $4 million state subsidy from the Miss America Organization in the wake of lewd comments. Christopher Howard, the CRDA’s executive director, said in a statement Friday it will do an “immediate review” of its contract to determine the next steps.
Howard could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Atlantic City Mayor-elect Frank Gilliam, currently a city councilman, said Friday the lack of a television contract was a deal-breaker and “it’s a great opportunity to pull out of the contract.”
On Saturday, Gilliam said the resignation of the top three leaders did not change his opinion. While he respects the contestants and their talent, the competition is “not financially conducive” to Atlantic City’s success, he said.
“I don’t believe that Atlantic City reached the benefit that we once did on Miss America,” he said. “Once Miss America left the city … she never came back with the same strength.”
Former Miss America winners, after hearing about the resignations, are still calling for more change.
“Happy Birthday to me!” said Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, who turned 29 on Saturday, when she heard about the resignations. Now a TV news reporter in Columbus, Georgia, Hagan was a subject of some of the worst of the emails between Haskell and other members of the organization.
She said she was happy, but “there is still more housekeeping to do.”
Hagan said more board and staff members need to resign, including Meyers and Vice President of Field Operations Marc Angeli.
“He (Angeli) is the one who has done Sam’s dirty work for a long time,” Hagan said, adding he would deliver messages from Haskell about which former Misses America should not be spoken to or interacted with, she said.
Randle told The Associated Press on Saturday his inappropriate response to an email about Hagan’s weight came several months before he worked at the organization. But he said he apologized to her Saturday, saying the comment didn’t reflect his values or the organization.
Hagan said Randle did call her to apologize via voicemail, but she has not responded yet.
“I’m not really sure how I feel about that,” she said. “But I appreciate the gesture. He’s the first person from the organization I have heard from in any capacity.”
Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle and Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson released a joint statement Saturday, calling for the rest of the Board of Directors to step down.
“While it is reassuring that some of the perpetrators of the abuses within the Miss America Organization have resigned, this by no means fulfills the need for a thorough housecleaning of the Board of Directors,” the statement said.
“For the good of the organization, they must step away. The women of Miss America are determined to take back our program. This is not over yet,” it said.
On Friday, 49 former Misses America signed a petition demanding Haskell and the rest of the organization’s board of directors step down. The petition has now been signed by 56 former winners.
On Saturday, Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles said she received an email from Carlson confirming more than 2,000 state and local pageant organizers had signed another petition to remove Haskell.
“It’s a great holiday present for all of us,” Charles said of the resignations.
Charles grew up in Mays Landing and was one of the petition’s signers.
“We did it together. All of us kept texting, emailing, tweeting each other, pooling our resources,” Charles said of former Misses America, contestants, volunteers and local and state organizers who pushed for new leadership.
They will now stay involved and work on strengthening the program, she said.
“We are ready to pull our sleeves up and get to work to build Miss America back to where it used to be and should be,” said Charles. She would like to be a member of a newly constituted board, she said.
Miss America Organization board member Tammy Haddad, who was mentioned in some of the emails, announced Friday she resigned from the board. The Miss America Organization also had suspended Haskell on Friday.
In a statement late Friday, Haskell called the allegations “dishonest, deceptive and despicable.”
Haskell had not released an additional statement as of Saturday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.