Dick Clark Productions has ended it’s relationship with the Miss America Organization after internal emails sent by CEO Sam Haskell mocking the appearance, intelligence and sex lives of the pageant’s past winners were leaked.
The production company, which has worked with the nationally television pageant broadcast since 2014 and held two of its board seats, told the Associated Press that they were made aware of the emails several months ago.
“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 company said in a statement. “Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them.”
On Thursday, the Huffington Post reported an exposé on Haskell after reviewing nearly three years of internal emails sent by him provided by two sources.
Among his harsh and defamatory comments made were fat-shaming and slut-shaming insults about former Miss America Mallory Hagan (“OMG she is huge and gross”), references to former Miss Americas using a slang term for female genitalia, ridiculing remarks about former Miss America (and former board of directions member) Gretchen Carlson, and a death wish for former Miss America Kate Shindle — who had questioned in her book the organization’s decision to pay Haskell a $500,000 consulting fee during a year the organization was over $400,000 in the red.
One employee who was involved in email exchanges with Hagan was let go after the emails were first brought to the Miss America Organization’s attention, a spokesperson told the Huffington Post in a statement.
“The Miss America Organization Board of Directors was notified about the concern of inappropriate language in email communications several months ago. Consequently, the organization’s Board of Directors took the allegations of inappropriate comments very seriously and formed an investigative committee,” the spokesperson said. “As a result of the investigation, the Board directed the organization terminate the relationship with most egregious author of inappropriate comments. In addition, the Board has started the process of instituting additional policies and procedures for communication.”
Haskell has not been let go, though the Miss America Organization released a statement Thursday saying that Haskell had apologized to the board for his comments, the Associated Press reported.
The organization said the emails “contain inappropriate language that is unbecoming at best and is not, in any way, indicative of the character and integrity of MAO or its representatives. Please note that MAO does not condone the use of inappropriate language and apologizes for this situation. The Board of Directors took the allegations very seriously, investigated them, and considers the matter closed.”
Haskell joined Miss America’s board in 2005 and helped rebuild the brand’s popularity. Throughout his time there, the annual pageant had returned to broadcast television (ABC) and its original home of Atlanta City, New Jersey.
The pageant traditionally takes place the week after Labor Day each year (PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle served as a judge for the organization’s show in September, along with singer Jordin Sparks, model and actress Molly Sims and singer Thomas Rhett).
Several of the former Miss Americas including Hagan, Shindle and Carlson have since come forward, slamming the organization and asking for Haskell’s resignation.
“When I first read the emails in the article, I wasn’t shocked,” Hagan said on Today Friday. “But I was validated. For the longest time I’ve tried to explain to people around me this is happening and these things are being said. [I’m happy] to have the ability to be able to look on paper and say, ‘See, I told you.’ ”
“Every single one of the people who participated in that type conversation need to go,” Shindle, an actress who serves as president of the Actors’ Equity Association, also told Today. “They don’t get it. They don’t get what Miss America is or what it can be.”
“As a proud former Miss America and former member of the Board of the Miss America Organization, I am shocked and deeply saddened by the disgusting statements about women attributed to the leadership of the MAO,” Carlson said in a statement to then Huffington Post. “No woman should be demeaned with such vulgar slurs. As I’ve learned, harassment and shaming of women is never acceptable and should never be tolerated.
“Every MAO executive and board member who engaged in such crude behavior and signed off on it like it was no big deal should resign immediately,” she continued. “The Miss America Organization, which is tasked to uphold an almost 100 year old tradition of female empowerment and scholarship, deserves better. I hope all former Miss Americas, state and local titleholders and volunteers will join me in a collective effort to fight for the dignity of this great institution.”