Miss America bosses under fire for misogynistic emails

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New York (AFP)

Leaders of the Miss America beauty pageant were fending off calls for their mass resignation after leaked internal emails showed misogynistic, fat- and slut-shaming language, US media reported Friday.

Forty-nine former Miss Americas, including a 87-year-old crowned in 1948 and a former Fox News host, signed an open letter published by HuffPost demanding the resignations of the organization's CEO, president and board chair.

"We stand firmly against harassment, bullying and shaming -- especially of women -- through the use of derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean," HuffPost quoted the letter as saying.

"As Miss Americas, we strongly reject the mischaracterizations of us both collectively and individually. We also reject the ongoing efforts to divide our sisterhood and the attempts to pit us against one another."

HuffPost published leaked emails on Thursday that included a vulgarity to refer to past winners, former winners being routinely maligned, and the shaming of one over her weight and sex life, with Miss America CEO Sam Haskell calling her "a piece of trash."

Award-show producers, Dick Clark Productions, said Friday that it had severed ties with Miss America after being informed 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," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

"Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them," it added.

HuffPost quoted the Miss America Organization as saying it also had been notified about the emails months ago and fired a telecast writer -- the "most egregious author of inappropriate comments."

"The Board has full confidence in the Miss America Organization leadership team," HuffPost quoted the organization as saying.

Signatories to Friday's open letter included Gretchen Carlson, who settled a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2016 against then Fox News boss Roger Ailes for a reported $20 million, which precipitated his departure from the network.

Tammy Haddad -- a member of the Miss America Organization board whose resignation was also demanded in the open letter Friday -- has already stepped down, US media reported.