Former Miss Americas Suzette Charles and Heather Whitestone visited Megyn Kelly Today on Monday to discuss the allegations of bullying by Miss America chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper.
Current Miss America Cara Mund wrote a five-page letter claiming that she has been bullied, manipulated and silenced by Carlson and Hopper. Mund cited examples of alleged mistreatment in the letter, including being excluded from a nationally televised announcement that swimsuits will be eliminated from the competition.
Carlson denied the allegations in a statement. "I also want to be clear that I have never bullied or silenced you," she wrote. "In fact, I have acknowledged to you and your parents many times that the organization understands the frustrations of serving during such a change-filled and stressful year. It surely was not what you had expected. We’ve acknowledged your grievances, and taken many steps to try to make your experience a good one."
Charles said she was not surprised by Mund's letter. "I've had some background on Gretchen. Gretchen has been bullying for a long time. Actually she's bullied my sister here, Heather Whitestone. There were some incidents in the past that she's bullied," said Charles. She added that many employees have resigned due to the bullying. "This person has taken no responsibility for the way she's treated our current Miss America."
"For Cara Mund to write a five page letter explaining through her year how she's been treated is appalling," she continued. "And as a mother, Gretchen as a mother, what would she do if her own daughter were being bullied like that?"
"When I was Miss America, I didn't have an issue with my boss," said Whitestone. She added that she was angry to learn that Mund was allegedly not given the opportunity to make her own decisions and appearances. She recalled reading a newspaper interview where Mund said she wasn't allowed to answer some questions in fear of getting punished. "I said to myself, 'What is the world is going on with that Miss America pageant?'"
There are currently 20,000 signatures on a petition to have Carlson and Hopper resign, as well as 27 state organizations and 19 former Miss Americas calling for them to step down.
Charles added that Carlson reached out to 63 former Miss Americas to have a conference call discussing the allegations, though she refused to participate. "There are no words in the English language that would suffice her justifying how this young lady's been treated," she said.
Kelly then asked if they were surprised Mund didn't make her complaints privately to the organization. "I'm sure she has. I have a very close relationship with everybody in Atlantic City because I'm from the area and so lately, within the last year, I've been spending a lot of time in Atlantic City," said Charles. She revealed that CRDA, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, didn't want to donate a substantial amount of money to the Miss America Organization under the new leadership.
“It’s all about [Gretchen Carlson]. She wanted to be the face of the Miss America Organization," added Whitestone about why she believes Mund hasn't been given the opportunity to speak up.
Whitestone also addressed Mund's claims that she was told to refer to Carlson as one of the faces of the #MeToo movement. "The #MeToo movement, it has nothing to do with the Miss America Organization," she said.
The interview concluded with Charles and Whitestone agreeing that Carlson and Hopper should "absolutely" resign.
Former Miss America Caressa Cameron-Jackson spoke with Paula Faris on Good Morning America on about the need for the entire board, though specifically Carlson, to resign.
"I feel as though all of the leadership to include the board of directors is complicit in this," she said. "In order for us to move forward and to actually heal, we need to do the right thing right now so that we can move on and focus on who's gonna be crowned Miss America."
With the next Miss America competition coming up, Faris questioned if it is the right time for Carlson to resign. "Absolutely. It's never the wrong time to do the right thing and let's be clear. Just because we are asking for our chair and our CEO to step down does not mean the Miss America Pageant will not happen," said Cameron-Jackson. "I think it will send a clear message not only to our new Miss America, but to the public, that we are willing to do the right thing so that the Miss America that is crowned on Sept. 9 will not have to go through what Cara has gone through."
Faris then asked if Carlson has a point in stating that Mund's letter has lost the foundation money. "No," responded Cameron-Jackson. "We are not gonna do the victim-shaming here. I'm sure she didn't want that when she was part of the #MeToo movement, and I think that the sponsorships will return when they see that we are willing to do the right thing."
"I think it's great that we are allowing and making sure that there is a space for accountability and then doing what's necessary to ensure that we don't continue down a path that's wrong," concluded Cameron-Jackson.