Miss America CEO Suspended After Vulgar Emails About Contestants Revealed

Sam Haskell 2 - Getty - H 2017
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"Mr. Haskell, in support of the organization, has agreed to abide by the Board's decision," a spokesperson for the Miss America Organization said Friday.

The Miss America Organization board of directors has voted to suspend CEO Sam Haskell one day after HuffPost published internal emails showing Haskell disparaging and commenting crudely on the appearances of women who had competed in the pageant to other members of the organization.

"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," a spokesperson for the organization said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. "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."

(One day after this story published, Haskell resigned, effective immediately.)

In the emails reported by HuffPost, Haskell jokes about renaming former Miss America winners (who are labeled by the organization as "Forever Miss Americas) "C—s" and calls former winners a "pile of malcontents." In one email, he suggested that a recently deceased Miss America "should have been Kate Shindle" — who became Miss Illinois in 1998 and is now an actress.

Haskell called the claims "unkind and untrue," though he did not specify what he claims is untruthful in the HuffPo story. Haskell said Friday he was "under attack" for a year by two former Miss Americas, and the stress of that badly affected his judgment. For that, Haskell says, he apologizes, adding "my mistake was a mistake of words."

On at least two occasions, Haskell made negative comments about former Miss America Mallory Hagan's weight, in one case saying she was preparing for a career "as a blimp in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade."

Dick Clark Productions, which has a three-year deal with the Miss America Organization to produce the Miss America pageant's telecast and pay for its costs, was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct in August 2017 and, sometime thereafter, terminated its relationship with the Miss America Organization, according to the HuffPost story.

"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," Dick Clark Productions said in a statement. "We were appalled by their unacceptable content and insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the Miss America Organization 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."

Haskell has led the Miss America Organization since 2005, and he was promoted to be executive chairman in 2015. Prior to 2005, he was the worldwide head of television at the William Morris Agency.