Gretchen Carlson is defending herself and the Miss America Organization against accusations from 2018 pageant winner Cara Mund that she has been harassed and silenced during her tenure to date. Mund also claims that Carlson has elbowed her out of the spotlight.
Carlson, the former Fox News anchor and 1989 Miss America winner, became chairman of Miss America Organization last year after the prior regime, led by former WMA titan Sam Haskell, was ushered out amid scandal about email correspondence that disparaged past Miss America winners and critics.
But Carlson stands accused of being part of an effort to diminish Mund’s role during the final months of her reign. The next Miss America is set to be crowned Sept. 9 in Atlantic City, N.J., in a ceremony to air live from 9-11 p.m. ET on ABC.
Miss America Organization CEO Regina Hopper was also harshly criticized by Mund, who maintains Hopper frequently even called her by the wrong name at times. Mund, who hails from North Dakota, said she was told some media interview requests were “too big” for her to do and were handed to Carlson instead. Mund aired her complaint in a lengthy letter to her “Miss America sisters” airing her complaints about the new leadership.
“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,” Mund 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.”
Carlson was brought in to rehabilitate the image of an organization that seems out of step with the times at a moment of widespread female empowerment throughout the culture and across industries. Carlson gained a reputation as a champion of women with her sexual harassment lawsuit that led to the downfall of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.
Carlson has faced strong criticism from many connected to the Miss America pageant for the changes she’s initiated, including the end of the pageant’s famed swimsuit competition with this year’s telecast . Carlson said Miss America contenders would no longer be judged on “outward physical appearance.”
In a lengthy statement distributed Sunday evening via social media, Carlson said flatly: “I have never bullied or silenced (Mund).” Carlson said she was “surprised and saddened beyond words” by Mund’s accusations.