The Miss America organization is in a civil war of words as its new director Gretchen Carlson responded late Sunday to bullying allegations leveled by the pageant’s reigning winner.
Carlson, a former Fox News host who became the new Miss America chair earlier this year, wrote in a statement she was “surprised and saddened beyond words” by Miss America 2018 Cara Mund’s letter claiming she has been “bullied, manipulated and silenced” by Carlson and the organization’s CEO Regina Hopper.
Carlson denied that she or the organization ever mistreated Mund as alleged.
“I have never bullied or silenced you,” she wrote. “In fact, I have acknowledged to you and your parents many times that the organization understands the frustrations of serving during such a change-filled and stressful year. It surely was not what you had expected. We’ve acknowledged your grievances, and taken many steps to try to make your experience a good one.
Carlson then claimed that Mund’s words are having a direct financial impact on the Miss America organization.
“Actions have consequences,” Carlson wrote in the letter addressed to Mund. “Friday, as an organization, we learned that $75,000 in scholarships which would have been the first scholarship increase in years is no longer on the table as a direct result of the explosive allegations in your letter.”
She continued: “The impact won’t stop there. We are already seeing a negative ripple effect across the entire organization, and I am so concerned that it will dilute the experience for the next woman selected to wear the crown.”
Addressed to her “Miss America sisters,” Mund’s five-page letter detailed how Carlson and Hopper allegedly “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.”
Carlson, who herself won the Miss America title in 1989, has become a leading anti-sexual harassment crusader after famously suing the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes after he allegedly fired her for refusing sex with him. Ailes was booted from the network just a month later.
Following an email scandal that ousted the former Miss America leadership, Carlson took over in January, touting female empowerment within the competition. Her first notable action was to eliminate the swimsuit competition, a move that reportedly upset many in the pageant system.
According to Mund’s statement, however, Carlson’s actions towards her have not at all reflected her female-empowerment credo.
Mund claimed she was left out of interviews, not invited to meetings, and even called by the wrong name.“They told me that I’m not important enough to do big interviews and that the major press is ‘obviously’ reserved for Gretchen,” said Mund, who represented North Dakota in the 2017 pageant.
The reigning Miss America previously hinted at this strained relationship in an interview earlier this month with The Press of Atlantic City.
“It’s been a tough year,” Mund told the newspaper. “There have been a lot of things I can’t control. It’s felt I wasn’t always heard or utilized or appreciated.”
And since Mund published her allegations against Carlson and Hopper, multiple former Miss Americas have also come out against the former Fox News host.
Heather Whitestone (1995) and Suzette Charles (1984) told NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today on Monday morning that they want Carlson to resign.
“This person has taken no responsibility for the way she’s treated our current Miss America,” Charles said. “What would she do if her own daughter had been bullied like that?”
Other former Miss Americas took to Twitter in solidarity, saying its time for a change.
“Oh Gretchen,” wrote Jennifer Vaden Barth, Miss North Carolina 1991. “There are no words for what you have done here. Shocking and outrageous. This is not how leaders act.”
Carlson did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.