Sam Haskell, the CEO of the Miss America Organization who was accused of exchanging sexist and crude emails about past contestants, has resigned from his role following mounting pressure, board leaders said Saturday.
Haskell, who first joined the board in 2005, was stepping down immediately along with organization President and COO Josh Randle. Also leaving the organization will be board Chairman Lynn Weidner, who will stay on for up to 90 days until new leadership is found, interim Chairman Dan Meyers said in a statement.
“The Board thanks Lynn and Sam for many years of tireless work,” Meyers said.
His statement did not reference Thursday’s HuffPost report that detailed purportedly leaked emails between Haskell and other leaders in which they described the sex life and looks of one of the winners. The emails, written in 2014 and 2015, also reportedly referred to former Miss America contestants as an offensive slang term for a female body part and joked about another winner’s death. NBC News has not verified those emails.
Mallory Hagan, crowned Miss America in 2013, told “Today” on Friday that she wasn’t shocked by what was allegedly said. The reported emails about her included Haskell and Randle commenting about her weight.
“For the longest time, I’ve tried to explain to people around me that this is happening or these things are being said,” Hagan added. After the report, “I felt validated in my feelings for the last couple of years.”
Randle told The Associated Press that the email criticizing Hagan was written months before he started working for the Miss America Organization in 2015. Still, he voluntarily resigned.
“I apologize to Mallory for my lapse in judgment,” Randle said 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.”
Haskell was initially suspended following HuffPost’s report, but said late Friday that it was a “vicious story” that involved “a series of conveniently edited emails.” He did not comment on his resignation Saturday.
The emails were alarming enough that Dick Clark Productions announced it was no longer producing the Miss America pageant, which was founded in 1921 and is typically held around Labor Day in Atlantic City, New Jersey. That temporarily leaves the pageant without a broadcast home.
There was also growing outcry for current leadership at the organization to step down, and a letter was signed by 49 former Miss Americas saying they were “deeply disturbed” by the “sickening and egregious words.”
Lawmakers in New Jersey also demanded that a state subsidy worth $4 million be pulled from the pageant if Haskell wasn’t ousted. Another board member mentioned in the HuffPost report, Tammy Haddad, resigned on Friday.
The board of directors said it is conducting an investigation into “alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained.”