The organization’s board of directors announced former winner — and ex-Fox News host — Gretchen Carlson, 51, is taking over the role of chairwoman of the Miss America organization after the company was rattled by a scandal involving its former CEO and several board members, People magazine reported.
In addition to Carlson, Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss (Miss America 2012), Heather French Henry (Miss America 2000), and Kate Shindle (Miss America 1998) were also named to the Miss America board.
The organization’s leadership changes come just weeks after leaked emails were uncovered by Huffington Post journalist Yashar Ali showing CEO Sam Haskell and various pageant executives exchanging derogatory comments — at one point calling past winners bad names — about past winners and personal attacks against former winners, including discussions about their sex lives and crude comments about their bodies.
In one email exchange between Haskell and a since-fired telecast writer Lewis Friedman, the pair joked, “It should have been Kate Shindle,” referring to news of the death of former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley. The uncovered emails also revealed that Haskell and other organizers previously drove Carlson from the board with disparaging remarks.
Carlson’s new appointment marks the first time in the pageants near century long history that a former winner has served as its leader. A staunch advocate against sexual assault, Carlson left her position as a Fox & Friends host and filed a sexual harassment suit against the network’s founder and CEO Roger Ailes.
“Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” Carlson said in a statement to HuffPost. “In the end, we all want a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future.”