This one got messy in a hurry

Dec 27th, 2017

Author – Kishakerone

In case you’re wondering how all this happened..

In late August 2014, the CEO of the Miss America Organization, Sam Haskell, sent an email to the lead writer of the Miss America pageant telecast, Lewis Friedman, informing him of a change he wanted to make in the script: “I have decided that when referring to a woman who was once Miss America, we are no longer going to call them Forever Miss Americas….please change all script copy to reflect that they are Former Miss Americas!”

Friedman replied, “I’d already changed “Forevers” to “Cunts.” Does that work for you?”

Haskell’s short reply came quickly: “Perfect…bahahaha.”

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At that point, Haskell had been the leader of Miss America for nine years, after rising through the ranks at a top Hollywood talent agency. Many prior winners, or as they’re called, “formers,” consider the pageant a wonderful, wholesome activity for young women. But Haskell’s behavior behind closed doors shows he regularly maligned, fat-shamed and slut-shamed the former Miss Americas, calling them shocking names and in one case laughing at the suggestion that one of the women should die.

When it came to one particular former, Haskell took his efforts so far that she lost her pageant coaching business.

GETTY IMAGES
Miss America Organization board members Tammy Haddad, left, and Lynn Weidner.

Two Miss America board members served as a virtual rubber stamp for Haskell’s behavior: Tammy Haddad, a media consultant and D.C. power connector; and Lynn Weidner, a Las Vegas socialite. And though Friedman was never a board member, he regularly sent offensive and sexist messages to Haskell, which Haskell often responded to by indicating he thought Friedman was funny or endorsed what Friedman was saying.

For this story, HuffPost reviewed nearly three years of internal emails provided by two sources. They reveal a CEO who regularly wrote and responded to unprofessional, offensive emails about the women who poured their hearts into the pageants and the organization he was leading.

(Update: The board suspended Haskell on Friday, hours after an open letter from 49 former Miss Americas called for top-level resignations, adding, “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.”)

Less than 48 hours after a HuffPost report revealed disturbing and inappropriate internal communications in the Miss America Organization, embattled CEO Sam Haskell has resigned. Josh Randle, president and COO of the organization, has also tendered his resignation. Board chair Lynn Weidner who sent emails that were the source of controversy has also resigned.

Dan Meyers, who has served as the board’s vice-chair, has stepped into the role of interim chairman and sent this statement to HuffPost on Saturday:

“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 board on Friday suspended Haskell, pending an investigation into the emails. Board member Tammy Haddad has resigned.

Read the full story at HuffingtonPost

Some more details of just how far this went follows below. Huffpost really did get their hands on a trove of information here. If there was one lesson learned in 2017 and 2016 it’s to be careful what you send in an e-mail. They always have a way of coming to light!

Improving A Struggling American Institution

Sam Haskell joined Miss America’s board in 2005 after retiring from the William Morris Agency (now called WME), where he was the worldwide head of television.

Most everyone agrees that to a certain extent, Haskell helped the organization get back on its feet. Miss America has returned to broadcast television, airing on ABC after being relegated to basic cable. It has also come back to its original home of Atlantic City, New Jersey, from Las Vegas, where the pageant took place in a smaller venue. In 2014, the Miss America Organization and Dick Clark Productions announced a one-year deal (later extended to three years) for the storied entertainment company to produce and cover the cost of the annual pageant telecast, in addition to paying a fee to the Miss America Organization for the rights to produce the telecast. As part of the deal, Dick Clark Productions received two seats on the Miss America Organization board.

Over the past 12 years, Haskell has gone from a board member to a well-compensated CEO. He makes $500,000 a year, which has been a source of internal and external controversy.

But despite his success at growing the pageant, internal emails show a different story.

MICHAEL LOCCISANO VIA GETTY IMAGES
Sam Haskell applauds at the 2018 Miss America event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In some cases, Haskell was professional. In an August 2013 email exchange, one month before Mallory Hagan, 2013’s winner, would crown the new Miss America in Atlantic City, Haskell exchanged emails with his daughter and one of his top employees, Brent Adams, about Hagan.

His daughter, Mary Lane, said, “Here’s hoping you get another good one!”

Haskell replied to Mary Lane, “It’s going to be hard to replace Mallory, but I’m hopeful!”

But in other cases, Haskell and Haddad routinely maligned the former Miss Americas, calling them “malcontents” and treating them as embarrassing inconveniences rather than honored alumnae.

In May 2014, Haskell forwarded one of Haddad’s emails to a Miss America executive. In it, Haddad had referred to some former Miss Americas as a “pile of malcontents and has beens who blame the program for not getting them where they think they can go.”

She added, “80% of the winners do not have the class, smarts and model for success.”

She then encouraged Haskell to try to avoid getting riled up by the “formers,” saying, “YOU have to let them go. You don’t need them. They need you. We also have to punish them when they don’t appreciate what we do for them.”

In his forward, Haskell called the advice wise.

In response to email questions sent to Haskell and Haddad, HuffPost received a response from a Miss America Organization spokesman. He said Friedman had been let go from the organization after an investigation.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

“The Board has full confidence in the Miss America Organization leadership team,” he added.

In a reply to an email with questions about his statements, Friedman said, “Before commenting to correct your information and provide context, I’ll speak to my attorney as this matter is the subject of pending litigation.” It is not clear what litigation he was referencing.

‘It Should Have Been Kate Shindle’

DONNA CONNOR VIA GETTY IMAGES
Kate Shindle winning in 1998.

Haskell sometimes focused on Kate Shindle, who was crowned in 1998. The former Miss Illinois is now a successful actor and singer, and serves as president of the Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing more than 51,000 American stage actors and stage managers.

In 2014, Shindle released a book in which she questioned the Miss America board’s decision to pay Haskell a $500,000 consulting fee, during a year the organization was over $400,000 in the red. (The board said the money was back-pay for Haskell.)

Shindle was not revealing new information; press accounts had already exposed the payment. In her book, she also alleged Haskell blacklisted those who dissented against his leadership, with the national organization calling state-level pageants and giving those groups names of people they could not associate with. 

In December 2014, Friedman emailed Haskell to offer his condolences on the death of former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, writing, “So sorry to hear about Mary Ann Mobley”

The subject line of Friedman’s email read: “It should have been Kate Shindle.”

Haskell replied, “Thanks so much Coach…even in my sadness you can make me laugh…how was the Kennedy Center Honors? Love you and appreciate you! Sam.”

Shindle declined to comment for this article.

‘Drive Gretchen Insane’

ASTRID STAWIARZ VIA GETTY IMAGES
Gretchen Carlson was involved with Miss America for years.

Haskell and Haddad also appeared to dislike Gretchen Carlson, who won the Miss America title in 1989 and was on the organization’s board of directors for many years. The root cause of their disdain, according to three sources, was Carlson’s push to modernize the organization and her refusal to attack former Miss Americas.

Haskell told Carlson not to have Hagan on her program, according to three sources familiar with the conversation. Carlson refused.

On Aug. 15, 2014, Weidner sent an email to a group of former Miss Americas, including Carlson, about Shindle’s book, saying, “Is it possible for each of you to speak out in defense of Sam and the organization?”

Carlson replied, “It’s one thing to talk about your own personal experience as Miss America … but totally different to attack people individually.”

Haskell forwarded Carlson’s response to Haddad, who replied to Haskell, “Snake but now u have not doubts as to her loyalty. Makes it easy not to respond. Right?”

Just before Shindle’s book came out, Haddad emailed Haskell and said, “Why don’t u read susan POWELL’s [former Miss America] email on the board call and say it’s a shame that only one miss america who has come forward to offer help in any way.” Haddad was referring to an email Powell had written that was supportive of Haskell.

Haskell replied, “Brilliant…..fucking Brilliant!!!! That will drive Gretchen INFUCKINGSANE.”

After the email exchange, Haskell did not feature Carlson in the next Miss America broadcast ― an unusual decision given her prominence.

In a statement sent by email, Haddad said, “I have the highest regard and gratitude for Gretchen and her extraordinary leadership in fighting for women.”

Carlson later resigned from the Miss America board. Haskell and other board members were telling people Carlson couldn’t be trusted, which she felt was maligning her integrity, according to a source familiar with her thinking at the time.

Carlson responded to HuffPost on Thursday, “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. 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. 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.”

In 2016, Carlson rocked the media world when she sued former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. Carlson’s suit led to Ailes being pushed out, and she later received a settlement. She has since focused on bringing attention to the epidemic of sexual harassment in the workplace and is working with members of Congress to approve legislation to protect women’s rights in the workplace.

Focused Attacks

STEVE MARCUS / REUTERS
Mallory Hagan wins the crown in 2013.

Haskell also appeared to have special disdain for Hagan. In January 2013, she was crowned Miss America at the pageant in Las Vegas.

But just three months later, she was publicly fat-shamed for a bikini photo that surfaced. Haskell said nothing publicly about the images at the time. Later, though, he did internally.

SPLASH NEWS/GETTY IMAGES
Hagan was publicly fat-shamed for the photo on the left. The right shows her while competing for Miss America.

By this point it’s already obvious somebody’s losing their job, is it not? Just in case there was any doubt, here comes the rest.

As the reigning champion, Hagan spent time in Oxford, Mississippi, at Haskell and his wife’s home. It was there Hagan got to know Adams, whose official title was director of development at Haskell’s production company, which had a television deal with Warner Brothers. Adams essentially acted as a chief of staff, overseeing the various elements of Haskell’s business and personal life, including Miss America.

Adams and Hagan realized they had a connection after spending time together, but, fearful that professional entanglements could complicate a romantic relationship, the two decided if they were going to date it would be best to wait until Hagan’s reign was over.

Shortly after Hagan crowned the new Miss America in September 2013, she and Adams started dating. According to Adams, Haskell wanted Adams to date his daughter, not Hagan, and was open about this request.

Adams recalled an encounter with Haskell at his home in which Haskell attempted to convince Adams to break up with Hagan and instead date his daughter. Haskell stretched out his arms and told Adams, “All of this can be yours,” ostensibly referring to his Oxford mansion and the family’s money.

“You don’t need a piece of trash like Mallory. You need someone with class and money like my daughter,” he said, according to Adams.

When Adams was in New York with the Haskell family, Haskell accidentally sent a text message to a group chat that suggested his daughter try to hold Adams’ hand. Adams described the text in a phone interview.

Once, when Hagan made a payment for dinner to Adams via the peer-to-peer payment app Venmo (which shows payments between friends), Haskell confronted Adams about it, asking why he was still in touch with Hagan.

‘Are We Four The Only Ones Not To Have Fucked Mallory?’

In August 2014, Haskell received an email from someone he knew, who said Hagan’s hairdresser in New York had been commenting on Hagan’s sex life while Hagan was living in Los Angeles, as well as her recent weight gain.

Haskell forwarded the email to Friedman saying, “Not a single day passes that I am not told some horrible story about Mallory.”

Friedman replied, “Mallory’s preparing for her new career … as a blimp in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade As she continues to destroy her own credibility, her voice will attract less and less notice while she continues her descent to an unhappy pathetic footnote.”

Friedman ended the email with, “Ps. Are we four the only ones not to have fucked Mallory?”

Haskell replied and said, “It appears we are the only ones!”

He then wrote Hagan had slept with someone he knew, and he told the man’s mother “he needs to have a blood test because we lost count of the number of men she slept with at 25.”

A source close to Hagan says the accusations about her hairdresser and having sex with the man in question are not true.

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Why Does He Want That?′

On Jan. 25, 2015, Weidner sent Haskell a photo of Hagan with three other former Miss Americas. Weidner did not comment on the photo in her email.

Haskell replied, saying, “OMG she is huge…and gross…why does he want that?????” Haskell did not name Adams specifically, but it appears he was discussing his employee, who was still dating Hagan at the time.

Haskell then forwarded the email to Josh Randle, who now serves as president of the Miss America Organization, and added, “Look at MH in this photo…OMG…Why does he want that?”

Randle said, “She’s a healthy one!! Hahaha.”

Haskill said, “Look at this photo from the Former Retreat!!! Shindle was there too and I was told she made everyone sign an NDA as she rolled out her plan of attack…evil lurks.”

Haddad said, “Mallory is barely recognizable”

Haskell said, “It is unreal.”

Haddad replied, and said, in part, “U think he left u for that? Don’t believe it. It makes NO sense.”

Haskell also forwarded the email to Friedman, who said, “My screen just cracked! What happened?”

Hagan declined to comment for this article. A Miss America Organization spokesman replied to questions sent to Randle with the same statement he gave for Haskell and Haddad. That statement said Friedman had been let go and the board was instituting new guidelines for internal communication.

Again, a tip of the hat to Huffpost for this amazing reporting.

2018-01-04T07:20:10+00:00

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