Sunday 16 December 2018

Ex-Miss America takes charge of pageant after sexism scandal

Miss America 2018 contestant Maddie Murray, who represents Montana, takes part in a fitness programme for the pageant in New York City yesterday. Photo: Lars Niki/Getty Images
Miss America 2018 contestant Maddie Murray, who represents Montana, takes part in a fitness programme for the pageant in New York City yesterday. Photo: Lars Niki/Getty Images

Rob Crilly

Miss America organisers have chosen a former winner to chair the board of directors for the first time, following a scandal over leaked emails that revealed how its chief executive ridiculed the intellect and sex lives of competitors.

It comes at a time when the #MeToo movement is forcing a re-examination of how women are treated in the workplace and in public life.

Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News Channel anchor and 1989 Miss America, was named chairwoman on Monday - despite previously raising concerns about tokenism - while three other previous winners will also serve on the board.

The selection of Ms Carlson marks the first time a former pageant winner has served as the leader of the nearly 100-year-old organisation.

"Everyone has been stunned by the [recent] events and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this programme," she said.

"In the end, we all want a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilising the organisation for the future."

The organisation also announced the appointments of three other past Miss Americas: 2012 winner Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, 2000 winner Heather French Henry and Kate Shindle, who won in 1998 and now serves as president of the Actors' Equity Association.

It comes less than two weeks after leaked emails surfaced revealing now ex-chief executive Sam Haskell's disparaging comments about former Miss Americas.

One email used a vulgar term for female genitalia to refer to past winners, another included a wish that a particular Miss America had died, and others speculated about the number of sex partners another previous winner had had.

Mr Haskell quit on December 23, along with two other senior officials. The scandal also cost the pageant its TV production partner and raised questions about the future of the show, which is broadcast nationally.

Ms Carlson had criticised putting former contestants on the board, claiming most board members would stay on. It has emerged that most have now resigned.

Irish Independent

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