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Days after the Sam Haskell email scandal rocked the pageant world, former Miss America Mallory Hagan publicly addressed the controversy in a candid interview Tuesday on Good Morning America.
The Huffington Post first exposed leaked emails Thursday, showcasing the now-former CEO, along with other Miss America leaders, exchanging emails where they crudely discussed the appearances of women who had competed in the pageant with demeaning and misogynistic language.
Hagan, who was crowned with the coveted title in 2013, was one of the women Haskell mocked in the emails, belittling her love life and weight. Despite never personally experiencing derogatory comments during her reign, Hagan revealed that she had heard comments made about other Miss Americas. “I didn’t put two and two together in that moment, but hindsight is always 20-20,” the former pageant winner explained.
After Haskell’s resignation Saturday, former president and COO Josh Randle and Chairman Lynn Weidner also resigned after being revealed to have also exchanged the demeaning emails among the board members.
Although controversial, Hagan hopes the scandal can “signal the reinvention” of the Miss America pageant and credits former pageant employee Brent Adams for being the supporting voice the women needed.
“He stood up for me. He stood up for all these women,” Hagan said on ABC’s GMA. Adding, “I hope that this is a turning point for Miss America for that reason alone. That we’re learning that we can stand up for others. He stood up for us and now we all band together to save our program.”
Hagan also emphasized that the focus shouldn’t be on the scandal, but rather the unity existing among former pageant winners and contestants. “I think this is an opportunity to see how women can come together, support each other, rise up, take over the things that they want to see happen and move forward,” she said. “I’m really hoping what people see is these women are empowered and work together.”
Hagan admits that change was prevented in the Miss America world pre-scandal because “the leadership in place was simply not open to it.” But now, there’s an “open door” for change, where gender diversity can still exist within the organization, post-Haskell: “Not just women should run a women’s organization, but I certainly think they should have a lot of the say and that’s not what we’ve seen in the last decade.”
Randle addressed the email scandal, admitting that he’d had a “lapse in judgment” when making comments about Hagan. “I apologize to Mallory,” Randle said in a statement to the Associated Press on Saturday. “It does not reflect my values or the values I worked to promote at the Miss America Organization. Although this terrible situation was not caused or driven by me, in light of recent events and new developments, I am no longer willing to continue in my capacity as president…I feel terrible, but this is the right thing to do.”
Unfazed by the apologetic statement made by Randle, Hagan asserted that he and the others shouldn’t be of any focus. “At this point, those people are no longer affiliated with Miss America and what we really want to focus on is how we’re going to move forward in the future.”
The board announced it would be conducting an investigation into the alleged inappropriate communications, telling The Hollywood Reporter on Friday: “The Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”
Dan Meyers, who has stepped in as interim chairman, confirmed Haskell’s resignation was effective immediately. “This afternoon, the Board of Directors of the Miss America Organization accepted the resignation of Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Haskell, effective immediately,” he said in a statement. “The Board of Directors also accepted the resignation of Chairman Lynn Weidner. At the Board’s request, Ms. Weidner has agreed to remain on the Board for up to ninety days to facilitate a smooth transition for the MAO to new leadership.”
He added: “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.”
Weidner and Randle will stay on for a few weeks to assist in the transition. “Earlier today, in light of recent events and new developments, the Miss America Organization’s Board of Directors received and accepted the resignation of President & COO Josh Randle,” said a spokesperson in a statement to THR. “At the Board’s request, Josh has agreed to remain in his current capacity for several weeks to facilitate a smooth transition.”
Dick Clark Productions also announced that it was no longer producing the Miss America pageant, after having a three-year deal with the organization. The company admitted to feeling “appalled” by the email content and after being made aware of sexual misconduct allegations in August 2017, terminated its relationship with the organization.
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