Gretchen Carlson Denies Claim She "Silenced" and Bullied Miss America

Gretchen Carlson - Getty - H 2017
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Carlson wrote that she was "surprised and saddened" by Cara Mund's accusations, which have cost the organization $75,000 in scholarships, and she is "concerned that it will dilute the experience for the next woman selected to wear the crown."

Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who now serves as chairwoman of the organization's board of directors, on Sunday responded to claims by current Miss America Cara Mund that she has been bullied, manipulated and silenced by the pageant's current leadership, including Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper.

In a letter sent Friday to former Miss Americas, Mund said she decided to speak out despite the risk of punishment.

"Let me be blunt: I strongly believe that my voice is not heard nor wanted by our current leadership; nor do they have any interest in knowing who I am and how my experiences relate to positioning the organization for the future," Mund wrote. "Our chair and CEO have systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis. After a while, the patterns have clearly emerged, and the sheer accumulation of the disrespect, passive-aggressive behavior, belittlement, and outright exclusion has taken a serious toll."

In a series of tweets and a lengthy statement posted to her Twitter account Sunday, many of which were addressed directly to Mund, Carlson said she was "surprised and saddened" about Mund's accusations. Noting that the current Miss America didn't reach out to her directly via phone before making her claims public, Carlson said she has had contact with Mund only via email, which has been the latter's preference.

"Cara, let me be clear: We, as an organization, are very proud of you and all you have accomplished. You are smart, caring and ambitious," Carlson wrote. "As a Brown graduate, you aspire to go to law school and one day run for Governor in your home state of North Dakota. You embody the mission of Miss America."

Carlson denied the claims in Mund's letter.

"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. You are at the epicenter of a very historic moment for women. Over the past two years, our country has undergone a seismic shift in how professional women are depicted and treated."

Carlson went on to say that the organization has felt repercussions in the two days since Mund made her claims.

"Actions have consequences," she wrote. "Friday, as an organization, we learned that $75,000 in scholarships which would have been the first scholarship increase in years, is no longer on the table as a direct result of the explosive allegations in your letter. The impact won’t stop there — we are already seeing a negative ripple effect across the entire organization, and I am so concerned that it will dilute the experience for the next woman selected to wear the crown."

Mund's letter exponentially increased the turmoil surrounding the pageant three weeks before the next Miss America is to be crowned in Atlantic City.

In her letter, Mund said she's been left out of interviews, not invited to meetings and called the wrong name. When she obliquely hinted at trouble with pageant leadership in an interview earlier this month with The Press of Atlantic City, Mund said she was swiftly punished by having her televised farewell speech cut to 30 seconds, and was told a dress she had been approved to wear in the traditional "show us your shoes" parade could not be worn.

This year's competition will not include swimsuits, and pageant officials from at least 19 states have called for the current leadership to resign.

Mund said she was given three talking points to be made in every appearance: "Miss America is relevant. The #MeToo movement started with a Miss America, Gretchen Carlson. Gretchen Carlson went to Stanford." (Mund said she was allowed to mention that she went to Brown to show that both women were highly educated.)

"Right away, the new leadership delivered an important message: There will be only one Miss America at a time, and she isn't me," Mund wrote.

Mund, who was Miss North Dakota and won the crown on a platform of increasing the number of women elected to political office, said she was treated better by the previous Miss America leadership that was forced from power after sending emails ridiculing the appearance, intellect and sex lives of former Miss Americas.

Mund cited examples of mistreatment including being excluded from the nationally televised announcement that swimsuits were being eliminated — even though she was with Carlson at the TV studio where it was made. She said pageant handlers ridiculed her clothing choices and chided her for wearing the same outfits too often. When she reached out to former Miss Americas to see if they had been treated similarly, "I was reprimanded by Regina who told me that problems and concerns had to be kept 'in the family,'" said Mund.

On Sunday, Carlson concluded her statement by addressing Mund again: "We are three weeks away from what should be a historic moment of celebrating the amazing 51 candidates who have chosen to compete for the job of Miss America. We should be celebrating them. Cara, please join us in doing so."

Read Carlson's full statement below.