Former Miss Americas are coming together to demand that the nonprofit organization’s entire board steps down.
The decision followed the publication of a five-page letter by current Miss America Cara Mund accusing chair Gretchen Carlson of bullying.
In the letter, Mund said that Carlson and the board gave her very strict talking points, which included lying about the most important anti-sexual assault movement we’ve seen taking shape in our history.
Mund went on to accuse Miss America’s CEO of trying to silence her.
“Our chair and CEO have systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis,” she wrote. “After a while, the patterns have clearly emerged, and the sheer accumulation of the disrespect, passive-aggressive behavior, belittlement, and outright exclusion has taken a serious toll.”
After the letter went public, Miss America released a statement claiming that the organization always supported Mund.
“It is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately. Her letter contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations. We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns,” the statement read.
The group of 19 former contest winners are now telling Carlson, as well as the entire board, to resign, insisting that is the only way for the organization to keep its reputation intact.
Miss America 2010, Caressa Cameron-Jackson, told reporters that putting Carlson in charge was meant as a way of making things better. Unfortunately, that’s not what ended up happening.
“[When] we voted, myself included, to put Gretchen in this position, we were hoping it was with a fresh set of eyes," Cameron-Jackson said. "It's heartbreaking now to see that’s not the direction things have gone."
Suzette Charles, Miss America 1984, agreed.
“We are very much disappointed that as a sister, she sorta forgot where she came from," she said.
During an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Cameron-Jackson explained that starting with a clean slate could change things for the better.
“I feel as though all of the leadership is complicit in this, and in order for us to move forward and to actually heal, we need to do the right thing right now, so that we can move forward and focus on who’s gonna be crowned Miss America on Sept. 9,” she said.
FULL INTERVIEW: "It's never the wrong time to do the right thing."— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 20, 2018
Former Miss America, Caressa Cameron-Jackson one-on-one with @paulafaris as she calls for pageant leaders to resign: https://t.co/0wZJnpowI9 pic.twitter.com/9rKlTwkO4n
In an interview with Megyn Kelly, Charles added that Carlson must be held accountable.
“Gretchen has been bullying for a long time,” Charles said. “This person has taken no responsibility for the way she’s treated our current Miss America.”
The two former winners told reporters that they are stepping up and giving these interviews because Miss America simply barred Mund from taking interviews. Still, her letter continues to be quoted by news outlets, making the organization’s tactics an utter failure as they are not able to keep her quiet.
“Right away, the new leadership delivered an important message: There will be only one Miss America at a time, and she isn’t me,” Mund wrote in her letter. “They told me that I’m not important enough to do big interviews, and that the major press is ‘obviously’ reserved for Gretchen.”
On Sunday, Carlson said she was not guilty of any of the accusations brought forward by Mund, adding she was “surprised and saddened beyond words.” She also claimed that Miss America lost $75,000 in scholarship money following Mund’s letter.
Please see my statement in full below pic.twitter.com/rvmee4es7g— Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) August 20, 2018
“Cara, let me be clear: We, as an organization, are very proud of you and all you have accomplished. You are smart, caring and ambitious. … You embody the mission of Miss America,” Carlson wrote.
“I also want to be clear that I have never bullied or silenced you,” she added.
On Twitter, users took Mund’s side, using the hashtag #StandWithCara to show how disappointed they were in Carlson. Even other former Miss America winners tweeted in support of their sister.
-18,200+ signatures— Kendall Morris (@KendallMorrisTV) August 20, 2018
-27 state organizations
-19 former Miss Americas
All calling for Gretchen Carlson’s resignation.
This is her response— notice the absence of the word sorry. #standwithCara https://t.co/YJ9ltkp6DZ
Oh Gretchen. There are no words for what you have done here. Shocking and outrageous. This is not how leaders act.— Jennifer Vaden Barth (@jvadenbarth) August 20, 2018
Effective immediately I am retracting all involvement with the Miss America system. This includes sponsorships and appearances. It's time someone has the balls that #standwithcara has. I don't care about the financial repercussions.— Justin Bowers (@UpstateFitness) August 17, 2018
It's about doing what's right.
Literally taking out a notebook and jotting down names of prominent formers/titleholders who are cowardly staying silent while @CaraMund speaks her truth. She may be poised and resilient, but I’m a petty bitch. #StandWithCara— Martha Kyler (Price) (@Miss_MarthaLou) August 18, 2018
I admire Cara so much for everything she’s had to handle this year as Miss America. My heart breaks because of the way the organization is treating her and what it’s turned into but I fully believe that something good will come from all this bad. #StandWithCara pic.twitter.com/KK3tK02r1B— Tyra Jo Hayden (@TyraJo2) August 17, 2018
Just making sure @GretchenCarlson Tweets are seen. Share them all....see the truth. If she says these things in public, imagine what she says in private. #STANDWITHCARA #MissAmerica @CaraMund pic.twitter.com/sj4jcSpwmE— Becca Lynn (@saltymomdiaries) August 20, 2018
Disappointed @GretchenCarlson @reginahopper As a former state titleholder & women’s advocate, I don’t want my own daughters exposed to this toxic culture & mess. U had a chance to make a difference, grow @MissAmericaOrg & blew it. Empowered women empower women. #StandWithCara— Beth Stomps Feller (@BethSFeller) August 18, 2018
It has become nearly impossible for Carlson to go on pretending that she’s an innocent bystander in this incident. And the backlash will only worsen the longer the board and Carlson wait for it to go away.
If they remain in power as it is, it could mean the end of the organization as we know it, making Carlson and the current board the ones to blame for destroying the Miss America brand.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri