January 05, 2018 02:20 PM

As the new chairwoman of the Miss America pageant, Gretchen Carlson wants to revamp the organization to focus on empowering women.

The former Fox News anchor was named the head of Miss America on Jan. 1, after the former CEO, Sam Haskell, resigned over leaked emails in which he disparaged the pageant contestants and made crude comments about their bodies and sex lives.

“I was shocked,” Carlson, 51, said of the emails on Good Morning America on Friday. “I mean, it was appalling. But part of me also knows, after my life over the last 18 months, that this kind of behavior is prevalent unfortunately.”

Carlson settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News CEO Rodger Ailes in 2016, and sees the opportunity as a “form of justice” in the #MeToo era.

“We formed a collective voice and look where we are today, in a tsunami,” she says. “The same thing will happen with the Miss America Organization.”

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Carlson, who won Miss America in 1989, was outraged when Haskell’s emails came out, and called on all the board members to resign. It will now be made up entirely of past Miss America winners, with Carlson at the helm. She says she “felt compelled” to accept the position, and thought of it as a “call of duty.”

Gretchen Carlson after winning Miss America in 1989
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

“I find that incredibly empowering in this Me Too movement, that some of the women who were allegedly maligned in those appalling emails, are now running the place,” Carlson said. “It’s a form of justice.”

Carlson has not commented on whether the Miss America pageant will continue with the swimsuit portion, which has been widely criticized for placing the focus on the contestant’s bodies. The Miss Teen USA pageant replaced the swimsuit portion with activewear in June 2016.

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