THE President and COO of the Miss America Organisation (MAO) has resigned amid a scandal over vulgar emails.
The New York Post reports that Josh Randle, who became the youngest president in the organisation's history in May, announced he was stepping down - less than 48 hours after a Huffington Post report published emails mostly sent by CEO Sam Haskell that ridiculed past winners' appearance, intelligence and sex lives.
Randle is the No. 2 in the organisation, after CEO Haskell.
The report in The Huffington Post contained email exchanges in which Haskell, Randle, Lewis Friedman, a former writer for MAO and board members Tammy Haddad and Lynn Weidner, wrote offensive emails about Miss America winners.
Haskell was suspended by the board on Friday pending an investigation and board member Tammy Haddad, who also sent some of the tawdry, emails resigned. Board chair Lynn Weidner has also resigned.
Dan Meyers, who has served as the board's vice-chair, has stepped into the role of interim chairman. In a statement to The Huffington Post, he wrote: "This afternoon, the Board of Directors of the Miss America Organization accepted the resignation of Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Haskell, effective immediately."
"The Board of Directors also accepted the resignation of Chairman Lynn Weidner. At the Board's request, Ms Weidner has agreed to remain on the Board for up to ninety days to facilitate a smooth transition for the MAO to new leadership.
The Board thanks Lynn and Sam for many years of tireless work for, and significant financial support to, both the Miss America Organization and thousands of young women who received millions of dollars of educational scholarships from the Organization as a direct result of their efforts."
"The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell. Mr Haskell, in support of the organisation, has agreed to abide by the Board's decision," the non-profit organisation's leadership said in a statement.
"The Board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained. In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible."
Haskell, in a statement issued, apologised for "a mistake of words."
He said he was stressed by "from a full year of attacks by two Miss Americas." He did not name those women in his statement.
"This was not the CEO of an organisation laughing at inappropriate jokes and speaking about a former Miss America in email conversations," he claims.
"This was a father whose family was being attacked, and a man whose character was being assassinated daily, which impaired my judgment when responding to the inappropriate emails sent to me about them. For that, I deeply apologise."
He also called The Huffington Post story "dishonest, deceptive, and despicable."
15. @samhaskell has issued a statement calling my story "unkind and untrue" and that it contains "a series of conveniently edited emails," but then he says "my mistake is a mistake of words."— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) December 23, 2017
I will now be publishing a story with ALL of the emails I have obtained. pic.twitter.com/aXA65JM9kQ
The Huffington Post reported Thursday on the emails, which mock some former winners' appearance, intellect and sex lives. One email used a vulgar term for female genitalia to refer to past Miss America winners.
Haskell answered "Perfect … bahahaha" to a subordinate's August 2014 email that called former Miss Americas "c***s," Huffington Post reported.
According to the report, Haskell was emailed a photo of former Miss America Mallory Hagan and three other former pageant winners. "OMG she is huge ... and gross ... why does he want that?????" Haskell wrote, before forwarding the picture to Randle and repeating the comment.
"She's a healthy one! Hahaha," Randle replied. Haddad also responded to the picture, saying Hagan was "barely recognisable."
In another exchange, Friedman and Haskell made derogatory comments about Hagan's sex life. "Ps. Are we four the only ones not to have f****d Mallory?" Friedman asked.
"It appears we are the only ones!" Haskell said.
His resignation comes after dozens of former Miss Americas called on leaders of the pageant organisation to step down in the wake of the email scandal in which the CEO and other officials used crass and vulgar terms to refer to past winners.
A petition organised by former Miss North Carolina Jennifer Vaden Barth garnered the signatures of 49 former Miss Americas dating back to 1948. They called for the resignation of Haskell, Randle and Haddad.
The petition called the emails by Haskell and others "despicable" and faulted officials who "sat by without objection while such derisive comments were passed around."
"We are deeply disturbed and saddened to learn of the sickening and egregious words used by Miss America leadership," the petition read. "We collectively call for their immediate resignation."
The Miss America Organisation said Thursday night that Haskell had apologised, and that the group is revising its policies regarding communications, adding it considered the matter closed at the time before they suspended him and he resigned.
Several of the emails targeted Hagan, who won the 2013 pageant, claiming she had gained weight after winning and speculating about how many men she had sex with.
One sent by chief executive Haskell described her as "fat and gross".
"I feel like collectively, the Miss Americas are badass!" Hagan told The New York Post. "Don't mess with a group of empowered women!"
"Wow. I feel like we are taking the organisation back," she added.
"My hope is that this story that broke will bring light to the type of behaviour that's been in leadership of the Miss America Organisation and really help us put in place some people who care and who embody the mission of Miss America," Hagan also said in a Twitter video.
"Having somebody bully you, demean you, degrade you in any way is not OK."
Dick Clark Productions has also taken steps to distance itself from Haskell, announcing their decision to end their relationship with the annual televised pageant.
MAO, which hosts the competition, was founded in 1921, and claims to be a "movement of empowering young women everywhere to achieve their dreams," according to its website.