CHICAGO (CBS) — Four former Miss America winners from Illinois, including a candidate for Illinois Attorney general, are demanding pageant organizers quit after emails showed that they mocked the bodies and sex lives of former winners and called them vulgar names.
The first reports about the emails to and from Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell were published in the HuffPost. Haskell has been suspended, it was announced Friday evening.
“The degrading comments and bullying behavior contained in the emails attributed to Miss America Organization leaders are abhorrent,” said former Miss Illinois and Miss America Erika Harold. “Anyone who participated in or enabled the conduct chronicled in the emails should immediately resign from the Miss America Organization.”
Harold is a Republican candidate to succeed Lisa Madigan as Illinois attorney general.
Another former Miss America from Illinois, actor Kate Shindle, joined Harold in calling for resignations, saying the content of the emails makes her “physically ill.”
Haskell received an e-mail saying it should have been Shindle who died instead of another former Miss America. He responded, “Even in my sadness you can make me laugh.”
In another email, Haskell referred to 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagan as “huge and gross” and joked that he and three other men were “the only ones” who had not slept with her. The HuffPost article also alleges that Haskell tried to sabotage Hagan and her business.
On Friday, Hagan told CNN she wasn’t shocked by the emails.
“I feel validated because for the longest time I had been trying to tell people that this thing is happening to me and I didn’t have any proof and now I do,” she said. “I feel a big weight off my shoulders.”
Emails also show that Haskell referred to TV anchor Gretchen Carlson, also a former Miss America, as a “snake” after she refused to blacklist Shindle from her show.
Haskell reportedly disliked Shindle because her 2014 book questioned the pageant board’s decision to pay Haskell a $500,000 consulting fee, even though the organization was over $400,000 in the red.
The Miss America Organization says Haskell has apologized, adding it “considers the matter closed.”
CBS News contributed to this report.