Miss America Organization rocked by leaked emails and damning report on CEO’s behavior

The CEO of the Miss America Organization is under fire after a HuffPost report published emails showing that he approved of referring to former Miss Americas with demeaning language, harshly criticized a former titleholder’s appearance and weight and made disparaging comments to pageant bosses about her personal relationships.

Sam Haskell, the CEO and executive chairman of Miss America, is also accused of working alongside pageant board members to tank the pageant-coaching business of Mallory Hagan, the same former titleholder who also happens to be the Miss America immortalized in the pageant’s statute on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

Haskell, 62, the CEO of the Atlantic City-based organization, a nonprofit, is often credited from bringing the pageant back from near obscurity (and cable TV) and back to Atlantic City from Las Vegas. He has spoken of restoring the pageant to relevance and solvency. In 2014, Haskell, who makes $500,000 each year in his role with the pageant, helped the pageant ink a deal with Dick Clark Productions to boost the profile of the event.

But in light of the report, published on Thursday, former titleholders, including Gretchen Carlson — who was also mentioned in the emails — say he should step down. Dick Clark Productions, originally hired to freshen the image of the 100-year-old event, has already cut ties with the Atlantic City pageant.

Internal pageant emails published by HuffPost, which reviewed three years of emails for the story, show correspondence between Haskell and Lewis Friedman, a script writer for the pageant.

“I have decided that when referring to a woman who was once Miss America, we are no longer going to call them Forever Miss Americas….please change all script copy to reflect that they are Former Miss Americas!” Haskell told Friedman in August 2014. (Former titleholders play a part in the annual September pageant.)

His reply: “I’d already changed “Forevers” to “C**ts.” Does that work for you?”

Haskell’s reply: “Perfect…bahahaha.”

A spokesman for Miss America told HuffPost that the organization had conducted an investigation of Friedman and decided to break ties with him.

“The Board has full confidence in the Miss America Organization leadership team,” he said.

But prominent members of the pageant community are now also calling for Haskell to resign.

In August 2017, Brent Adams, a former employee of Haskell’s production company who worked on the pageant, and pageant board member Regina Hopper presented emails to Dick Clark Productions that showed Haskell’s behavior. After learning of the emails, the company eventually decided to part ways with the pageant. According to the HuffPost report, two Dick Clark executives, who sat on the pageant board, first showed the emails to the Miss America board members in the hope that the pageant board would enact a change in leadership.

Yet in response, the pageant organization sent the former employee, Brent Adams, a cease-and-desist letter. After no change in leadership was made, and Haskell remained at the helm of the pageant, Dick Clark severed ties with Miss America, and with them, the contract for Miss America to appear at various awards shows it produced, like the Billboard Awards.

Sam Haskell delivers a speech at Boardwalk Hall during preliminary competition at the Miss America pageant in 2014. (Alex Remnick | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

“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,” a statement from the company said. “We were appalled by their unacceptable content and insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the Miss America Organization (MAO) 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 were were terminating our relationship with them.”

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