7:30 p.m.: Suspended Miss America Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell releases a statement to the media where he says much of the the "vicious" Huffington Post story "is dishonest, deceptive and despicable."

Here is the complete statement:

In response to the vicious story on me in the Huffington Post regarding Miss America and a series of conveniently edited emails, it is important for you to know that the events are not as described.

Much of what was reported is dishonest, deceptive, and despicable. The material is based on private emails that were stolen three years ago by ex employees. The story is so unkind and untrue, and hurts me, my family, and the stewardship of this non-profit. Those who know my heart know that this is not indicative of my character, nor is it indicative of my business acumen. I was under stress from a full year of attacks by two Miss Americas, and while I don't ever want to offer an excuse, I do want to offer context.

This was not the CEO of an Organization laughing at inappropriate jokes and speaking about a former Miss America in email conversations. This was a father whose family was being attacked, and a man whose character was being assassinated daily, which impaired my judgment when responding to the inappropriate emails sent to me about them. For that, I deeply apologize.

For years, I have dedicated my life to this organization – dedicated to empowering young women. This discussion is an unfortunate distraction from the good work that thousands of volunteers around this country have done to provide more scholarships to young women than any other scholarship organization in the nation. I have the utmost respect for the women of this program and contestants at every level. It breaks my heart for anyone to think otherwise.

My mistake is a mistake of words. Therefore, to allow the MAO Board of Directors and me time to properly evaluate the situation, I will be abiding by their decision to suspend me in my capacity as Executive Chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization while an investigation takes place.

Sam Haskell

6:30 p.m.: The Miss America Organization announces that it has voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell. Here is the statement from the organization's board of directors:

“The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell. Mr. Haskell, in support of the organization, has agreed to abide by the Board's decision. The Board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained. In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”

3:30 p.m.: The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Chris Howard released a statement on the incident, stating it will review its contract to determine the next step.

"The CRDA finds the reports of the Miss America Organization and the behavior of its leadership troubling.

"The CRDA is working with our legal counsel to undertake an immediate review of its contract with the Miss America Organization and Dick Clark Productions to assess what steps we may need to take."

1:45 p.m. - Tammy Haddad, one of the Miss America board members, who is mentioned prominently in the email exchanges, released a statement on her blog whcinsider.com where she stated that she was resigning from the Miss America Organization Board of Directors:

“After serving 14 years as a volunteer board member, early this year I notified Sam Haskell of my plans to resign. I want to advise the rest of the board that this is effective immediately and wish you all the best. The women who put their hopes and dreams into this program are the best of America, as well as those who have worn the Miss America crown, traveling the country lifting hearts and spirits through their service above self.”

1:40 p.m. - Miss New Jersey 2015 Lindsey Giannini released a statement detailing her reaction to the story. She asks that Atlantic City not abandon the pageant and the women who compete in it. Here is the statement:

"These email exchanges go against everything this organization represents. After everything that has come to light recently, pulling the Miss America Pageant from Atlantic City would be detrimental to the thousands of women who compete each year in an effort to represent their state at Miss America. These women need scholarship support now more than ever and Atlantic City turning their back on them goes against everything we all stand for.

"Miss America contestants do tremendous work in our communities at the national, state and local levels. We must support those efforts and empower these women through this hardship. I would like to personally speak to the Atlantic City Mayor regarding this immediately.

1:30 p.m. -  Here's the wording of the petition signed by 49 Miss Americas, from BeBe Shopp Waring, 1948, through Savvy Shields, 2017, calling for the ouster of Miss America CEO Sam Haskell and members of the Board of Directors, as well as preservation of the pageant itself:

"We, the undersigned Miss Americas, represent decades of the powerful history and legacy of the Miss America Organization in the near-century of its existence. We are deeply disturbed and saddened to learn of the sickening and egregious words used by Miss America leadership in reference both to our group and to specific members of our sisterhood.

Petition signed by 49 Miss Americas demanding ouster of Haskell, board

Forty-nine Miss Americas, from BeBe Shopp Waring, 1948, through Savvy Shields, 2017, signed a petition demanding CEO Sam Haskell and members of the board resign, and asking the pageant itself be preserved.

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 mean to belittle and demean. As Miss Americas, we strongly reject the mischaracterization of us both collectively and individually. We also reject the ongoing efforts to divide our sisterhood and the attempts to pit us against one another.

We believe in empowering and supporting young women as they work to achieve their professional and academic goals. Each of us participated in the Miss America program for these reasons, and we are proud that each woman in this program is well-educated, talented and strong.

The behavior of the Miss America Organization leadership, specifically Sam Haskell, Josh Randle, Tammy Haddad and Lynn Weidner, is despicable, as well as the behavior of those who sat by without objection while such derisive comments were passed around. We collectively call for their immediate resignation. We also ask for those who revere the Miss America legacy to join us in preserving the integrity of the Miss America Organization and in supporting all women, rather than tearing them down.”

1:25 p.m.: Miss New Jersey 2017 Kaitlyn Schoeffel couldn’t believe the news when she first heard it. Schoeffel said that Sam Haskell welcomed her entire class with open arms and couldn’t have been kinder.

“But, at the end of the day, one person doesn’t define this organization,” said Schoeffel, who grew up in Egg Harbor Township.

Schoeffel said that she found out about the news from a group message with her class and added that all of the contestants had an overwhelming flow of support for one another, including support for Miss America 2018 Cara Mund.

While Schoeffel said that she still wants to know all of her sources before putting blame on Sam and the board, she made it clear that the women of Miss America – what she called a sisterhood – is what really defines the organization.

“At the end of the day, regardless of what happens, his actions, if they are true, they are by no means acceptable,” Schoeffel said. 

1:00 p.m.: State Sen. Colin Bell has joined the list of people calling for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to stop funding the pageant in wake of the email scandal. CRDA has yet to comment on the future of the event in the city. 

12:28 p.m.: The Miss New Jersey Education Foundation released the following statement following the email scandal exposed Thursday by the Huffington Post.

"The Miss New Jersey Education Foundation is disheartened at this reported behavior and stand in full support of our titleholders and contestants, both current and former.  We wish to continue our mission of providing scholarship assistance to the young women of New Jersey, as well as support them in service to their communities."

12:15 p.m.: Ed and Diane Grimes were walking down Atlantic City Boardwalk, passing Boardwalk Hall and the Miss America statue at Kennedy Plaza.

Ed Grimes used to teach and coach in Atlantic County’s school district before moving to Myrtle Beach. He and Diane remember attending the pageant’s Show Us Your Shoes Parade back in what he called the pageant's heyday.

Diane Grimes said she still watches the event each year, but Ed said he lost interest.

He said something like the email scandal is terrible for the contestants.

“It’s a shame for the women that they have to deal with that crap,” he said. 

12:00 p.m.: Miss New Jersey 2012 Lindsey Petrosh Delia said she doesn’t like seeing cringe-worthy reports about a program that benefits so many women.

“This program is relevant and it has provided me and thousands of others with scholarship ensuring that I could attend grad school and pursue my personal and professional goals. It has provided me with countless amazing experiences and given me some of the greatest friends I could ever ask for. I hope this outbreak of information does not discourage young women from participating in the future. I love the Miss America Organization and what it has done for young women for over a hundred years,” she said. 

11:40 a.m.: Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles says she is among many Miss Americas who have now signed a petition demanding the resignation of Haskell and the Board of Directors of the pageant. "I believe Sam and the board who have been involved should step down and I am in agreement with the other Miss Americas," said the native of Mays Landing. Miss America 1998 is Kate Shindle is one of the organizers of the petition, she said.

11:40 a.m.: Philadelphia author Michael Callahan, who covered this Miss America competition for decades said he was appalled by the recent news.

“Perhaps it was naïve to think this kind of behavior wouldn’t happen with the Miss America competition” said Callahan. “For this to happen with an organization to venerate the American woman is absolutely astonishing.”

Callahan said he thinks the Miss America Board of Directors should remove Haskell as CEO and Executive Chairman and consider a new direction in leadership.

“This will make or break Miss America” said Callahan. 

11:35 a.m.: Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo is also calling on CRDA to ends its funding of the pageant. 

"The late Senator Whelan had it right. Renewing the multi-million dollar Miss America contract with CRDA was never the right move," Mazzeo said in a statement. "I agree with Mayor-elect Gilliam, it's time to end the handout and move on. Atlantic City has too many good things happening in the future to be stuck on an event that has only brought in a respectful return in the distant past."

11:25: a.m.: State Sen.-elect and state assemblyman Chris Brown has joined incoming Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam in calling for CRDA to end their funding for the project.

"The CRDA's decision to bring back Miss America to Atlantic City initially held promise the pageant would promote the city as a destination resort, but in light of the limited benefit we've received thus far and without a TV contract, it’s hard to justify spending anymore public dollars to subsidize the pageant particularly when the money could be better spent on other projects that will actually help our working families and retirees afford to stay in their homes," Brown said in the a statement.

11:21 a.m.: Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, released a statement this morning. 

11:15 a.m.: Miss Rhode Island 2015 Allie Curtis said that the news of the emails is appalling. 

"The rest of my class of 2016 have a group chat and we are all on the same page. Especially in an organization of women empowerment, to have the people up top engaging in that type of discussion about women… it's obscene. I'm extraordinarily disappointed," Curtis said. 

Curtis added that she thinks a woman should be in a senior position with the organization. 

"It should be a no-brainer," she said.

11:11 a.m.: dick clark productions released the following statement to The Press of Atlantic City:

"Several months ago, dick clark productions was made aware of a portion of the emails that were referenced in the December 21 Huffington Post article.  We were appalled by their unacceptable content and insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the Miss America Organization (MAO) board of directors conduct a comprehensive investigation and take appropriate action to address the situation.  Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them."

11:10 a.m.:  Joe Kelly, president of the chamber, said the television contract is a very important part of the part of the contract; the national exposure is one of the value points of Miss America.

“The community has embraced Miss America for a lot of years,” Kelly said. “I would say people want more details at this point.”

11:00 a.m.:  Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said the loss of dick clark productions is a tremendous loss for the pageant.

“Miss America is iconic with Atlantic City,” Guardian said Friday morning. “I’m sorry to have seen inappropriate language being used by executive staff.”

As far as the future of the pageant in the resort, Guardian said “time will tell.”

Guardian released an additional statement 12:47 p.m.: “I strongly condemn the language and derogatory comments used by the CEO of the Miss America Organization.  This is not acceptable on any level. Each and every Miss America contestant deserves our utmost respect."  

10:47 a.m.: Former Miss America Suzette Charles, who grew up in Mays Landing, said she is shocked by allegations against Haskell and believes the pageant needs to do much more than just apologize. "I think it would be wonderful" to have a woman run the pageant," she said.

10:07 a.m.:  Incoming Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam said the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority should try to get out of the final year of their contract with the Miss America Organization.

On Thursday, Dick Clark Productions cut ties with the Miss America Organization over internal emails by the organization's CEO, Sam Haskell, where he ridiculed past winners' appearance, intelligence and sex lives.

In February 2016, Miss America and the state agency agreed to a three-year deal to keep the pageant in the resort through 2018. Under the contract, Miss America receives about $11.9 million in state subsidy during the life of the contract. When the contract was approved, supporters touted the amount of the national television exposure the city would get from the telecast.

“It’s a great opportunity to pull out of the contract,” Gilliam said Friday morning. “Now that the television has gone, it’s not what we are paying for.”

“I’m not one of the biggest fans of Miss America because we don’t get back compared to what give,” Gilliam said. 

The Huffington Post reported that Haskell exchanged emails with a writer for the televised pageant and others that included harsh and sometimes vulgar comments about past winners.

In an Aug. 2014 email between the Haskell and writer Lewis Friedman, Haskell talks about changing the name of past contestant winners in the telecast.

“Sharon and I have decided that when referring to a woman who was once Miss America, we are no longer going to call them Forever Miss Americas … please change all script copy to reflect that they are Former Miss Americas! Thanks, Sam,” Haskell wrote in an email released by the Huffington Post.

Friedman responded, “Sam – I’d already changed ‘Forevers’ to ‘C**ts.’ Does that work for you?”

In a separate email in August 2014 between Friedman, Haskell and others, whose names have been blurred out, they talk about sexual experiences of former Miss America Mallory Hagan.

“ps. Are we four the ones not to have f****d Mallory?” Friedman said in an email leaked by the Huffington Post.

“It appears we are the only ones! Liza took me aside after dinner on Thursday to tell me that Mallory seduced her son in NY at a party one week before giving up her crown in AC … she said it had been weighting on her heart and she needed to tell me … I told her he needs to have a blood test because we lost count of the number of men she slept with at 25,” Haskell responded.

Former pageant winners and alumni have already gone to social media to comment on the issue. 

Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and former member of the Board of the Miss America Organization, said this to Yasher Ali of New York Magazine: 

Former Miss America Kate Shindle, whose parents were once pageant volunteers in Atlantic City, had this to say. 

Allyn Rose competed in the Miss America 2013 pageant. She took to Twitter to comment on the story. 

Erika Harold was the 2003 winner of the Miss America pageant. 

Mallory Hagan was the Miss America 2013 winner. 

Alyssa Murray was a 2012 contestant for the pageant. 

Suzi Roberts was Miss South Carolina 2017. 

Contact: 609-272-7258


Twitter @acpressmaxreil

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