(Reuters) – The head of the organization that stages the Miss America beauty pageant resigned on Saturday after a report this week alleging that emails he had sent were derogatory toward past winners.
The resignation of Sam Haskell, executive chairman and chief executive of the Miss America Organization, came one day after he was suspended following the Huffington Post’s report on Thursday about the internal emails.
The pageant has for years faced criticism that it objectifies women, and the scandal over the emails has led to renewed scrutiny of the annual event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“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,” Dan Meyers, interim chairman of the board, said in a statement.
Lynn Weidner, chairman of the 96-year-old organization’s board, also resigned but will remain on the board up to 90 days to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership, Meyers said.
A representative for Haskell did not return emails on Saturday seeking comment. Weidner could not be reached for comment.
A representative for ABC, the division of the Walt Disney Co that broadcasts the pageant, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Haskell, in a statement accompanying his suspension on Friday, said the emails cited by the Huffington Post were “conveniently edited.”
“Those who know my heart know that this is not indicative of my character, nor is it indicative of my business acumen,” Haskell said in the statement.
“I was under stress from a full year of attacks by two Miss Americas, and while I don’t ever want to offer an excuse, I do want to offer context,” he added.
Reuters has not obtained the emails cited by the Huffington Post.
Haskell has been with the organization for a dozen years, after a career as an executive with talent management company the William Morris Agency.
In some emails, Haskell was demeaning of previous winners of the Miss America pageant, calling one woman “huge” and “gross” and commenting on her sex life in emails he sent in 2014 and 2015, according to the Huffington Post.
Haskell made the derogatory comments about the former pageant winner’s weight in response to an email from Weidner, who attached a photo of several former Miss Americas but did not comment on the picture herself, the news website said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken