The remaining leadership of the Miss America Organization was unable Thursday to quell the firestorm it has faced since the revelation of cruel and vulgar internal emails that ridiculed pageant contestants.
The organization late Wednesday said it wanted the input of former Miss Americas and state directors to fill current and anticipated vacancies on its board of directors, but that was swiftly rebuffed by some of the targets of the emails exchanged by Sam Haskell, the former executive chairman and CEO, who resigned after their publication last week by the Huffington Post.
In a statement from a key trio of past Miss Americas, including Kate Shindle, a South Jersey native who won the crown in 1998, the organization's offer was called "completely unacceptable."
"The only solution that will #SaveMissAmerica is the resignation of all current board members — who expressed 'full confidence' in Haskell after reviewing his appalling emails, and have reportedly handed him a generous severance package — so that a new generation of leadership can step up to secure Miss America's future," read the statement from Shindle, Gretchen Carlson, and Mallory Hagan.
Shindle, who posted the statement on her Twitter account, added Thursday afternoon that "we don't want a pat on the head; we want seats at the table."
In its report, the Huffington Post included some of the emails, which engaged in fat-shaming, mocked some former winners' intellect and sex lives, and used a vulgar term for female genitalia when referring to past winners.
The future of the 96-year-old pageant — held annually at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, except for a decade in Las Vegas beginning in 2004 — remains in doubt.
Dick Clark Productions, which produced the nationally televised pageant, announced last week that it had cut its ties to the Miss America Organization because of the emails, which were provided to the company 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. Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them," the company said in a statement.
In a video posted on Facebook, Hagan seized on the loss of the lucrative Dick Clark Productions partnership as proof that the Miss America Organization leadership was most interested in preserving the status quo.
"These people do not have the best interest of this program at heart, period, point blank. That should be enough," Hagan said. "These people were presented with these emails and chose to overlook them, did nothing about them, thought this was a big fat nothing burger, and voted to keep Sam Haskell and others in leadership in this program. That in and of itself should be enough for them to have to go."
Before he resigned Saturday, Haskell apologized for some of the emails, but claimed that much of the reporting in the Huffington Post story was "dishonest, deceptive, and despicable."