(Reuters) – The head of the organization that stages the Miss America beauty pageant and other leaders with the group resigned on Saturday after a report this week alleging that emails he had sent were derogatory toward past winners.
Sam Haskell’s resignation as executive chairman and chief executive of the Miss America Organization was accompanied by the departure of the organization’s president, the chairman of the board and a board member.
Haskell had been suspended on Friday, one day after a Huffington Post report about the internal emails.
The pageant has for years faced criticism that it objectifies women, and the scandal over the emails has led to renewed scrutiny of the annual event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“This afternoon, the board of directors of the Miss America Organization accepted the resignation of Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Haskell, effective immediately,” Dan Meyers, interim chairman of the board, said in a statement.
Lynn Weidner, chairman of the 96-year-old organization’s board, also resigned but will remain on the board up to 90 days to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership, Meyers said.
Josh Randle, president and COO, is also stepping down but will remain in his position temporarily, a Miss America Organization spokesman said in a statement.
On Friday, board member Tammy Haddad said in a statement she was following through on her plan to resign, effective immediately.
Haddad in emails had referred to past Miss America winners as “malcontents” and suggested hiring an investigator to look into the activities of one former winner, the Huffington Post reported.
Haddad, in an email to Reuters, said her intention in suggesting an investigation was only to discover the source of “anonymous character attacks” that had been launched on the Miss America private on-line community boards.
A representative for Haskell did not return emails on Saturday seeking comment. Weidner and Randle could not be reached for comment.
A representative for ABC, the division of the Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) that broadcasts the pageant, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Haskell, in a statement accompanying his suspension on Friday, said the emails cited by the Huffington Post were “conveniently edited.”
“I was under stress from a full year of attacks by two Miss Americas, and while I don’t ever want to offer an excuse, I do want to offer context,” Haskell said.
Reuters has not obtained the emails cited by the Huffington Post.
In some emails, Haskell was demeaning of previous winners of the Miss America pageant, calling one woman “huge” and “gross” and commenting on her sex life in emails he sent in 2014 and 2015, according to the Huffington Post.
Haskell made the derogatory comments about the former pageant winner’s weight in response to an email from Weidner, who attached a photo of several former Miss Americas but did not comment on the picture herself, the news website said.
Randle, responding to a 2015 email in which Haskell had written demeaningly about the former pageant winner, wrote, “She’s a healthy one!” the Huffington Post reported.
Randle, in a statement to the New York Times, said he was not working at the Miss America Organization when he replied to the email and that he had apologized to the former pageant winner for his “lapse in judgment.”
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken, Susan Thomas and Diane Craft