National News

Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989, Is Picked to Lead Pageant

Posted January 1, 2018 10:20 p.m. EST

Gretchen Carlson, who was Miss America in 1989 and in recent years has become a prominent voice against workplace sexual harassment, will take over as chairwoman of the pageant’s board of directors, the organization announced Monday.

Carlson, a former Fox News anchor whose harassment lawsuit against Fox Chairman Roger Ailes led to his departure in July 2016, will be expected to lead the pageant through its own harassment scandal. Three executives resigned last month after reports that leadership had used vulgar language to deride former winners in emails.

Carlson said on Twitter that she was “honored to move this iconic program forward with so many amazing volunteers.”

“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. “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.”

The organization also added three former Miss America winners to its board: Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, who won for 2012; Heather French Henry, who won for 2000; and Kate Shindle, who won for 1998.

On Dec. 21, HuffPost published emails that showed Sam Haskell, the chief executive, had made misogynistic remarks about former winners and at times was supported by other organization leaders. The emails indicated that he had shamed Mallory Hagan, a former pageant winner, over her weight and sex life.

Two days later, the organization accepted the resignations of Haskell; Josh Randle, the president; and Lynn Weidner, the chairwoman. Several other board members have resigned.

Carlson, who has previously served on the board, was one of 49 pageant winners to sign a letter on Dec. 22 demanding the resignations, calling the leaders’ behavior “despicable.”

“The women of Miss America are determined to take back our program,” Carlson and Shindle wrote in a statement after the resignations. “This is not over yet.”

After the emails surfaced, Dick Clark Productions, the pageant’s production company and a key broadcast partner, said it was “appalled by their unacceptable content” and cut its ties.

In her lawsuit against Ailes, Carlson accused him of forcing her out after she refused his explicit sexual advances. She wrote in a November 2016 op-ed that many women had started coming to her with their own stories of harassment.

She wrote that she twice experienced sexual harassment after being named Miss America.

“On one occasion, a well-known television executive stuck his tongue down my throat in the back seat of a car we were sharing,” she wrote. “And just a few weeks later, a famous publicist in Los Angeles shoved my head into his crotch so forcefully I couldn’t breathe.”

Carlson said in Monday’s statement that the new board would “continue an ongoing inclusive and transparent process to identify additional new board members and management.”