The leadership of the Miss America Organization, which holds annual beauty pageants in the US, has stepped down, after emails revealed comments on former beauty queens' appearance and sex lives.
The Miss America Organization (MAO) announced the suspension of its top hierarchy late Friday after the text of some emails was published by the Huffington Post news site.
The organization's CEO, Sam Haskell (main picture), resigned from his post Saturday, a day after he was suspended by the board. President Josh Randle and Chairman Lynn Weidner also stepped down on Saturday. While the board approved Haskell's resignation, Randle and Weidner will remain in their positions for a transition period.
"The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell," the MAO statement said on Friday. "The board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained."
The emails, first published on Thursday, show former Miss America beauty pageant winners being mocked for their appearance, intellect and sex lives.
Apologizing in a statement, Haskell said he made "a mistake of words," adding that he had been under stress because of verbal attacks by two Miss Americas whom he did not name.
He said his character "was being assassinated daily, which impaired my judgement when responding to the inappropriate emails sent to me about them. For that, I deeply apologize," Haskell said.
'Harassment and bullying'
Prior to the MAO board's decision, dozens of former beauty queens had signed a letter calling on the organization's leadership to step down.
"We stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming — especially of women — through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean," the Huffington Post quoted the letter as saying.
"As Miss Americas, we strongly reject the mischaracterizations of us both collectively and individually. We also reject the ongoing efforts to divide our sisterhood and the attempts to pit us against one another."
On Friday, award-show producers Dick Clark Productions severed ties with Miss America over the emails scandal.
"We were appalled by their unacceptable content and insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the Miss America Organization board of directors conduct a comprehensive investigation and take appropriate action to address the situation," the statement said.
"Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them," it added.
The Miss America Organization, which was established in 1921, is separate from Miss USA and Miss Teen USA hosted by the Miss Universe Organization previously owned by US President Donald Trump.
shs/bk (AP, AFP)