It seems like there’s a catfight brewing deep within the Miss America organization and it’s not pretty.
Fresh off the heels of the #MeToo movement, a public relations nightmare is bubbling to the surface at Miss America headquarters. The current title holder, Cara Mund, is claiming she’s been bullied since she took the crown, among other things.
Mund released a five page letter outlining alleged offenses against the Miss America Organization last week. In her letter she throws slings and arrows at the organization’s chairman, CEO and former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson.
Among other things, she accuses the organization of stifling her voice and underusing her in the position of title holder.
Gretchen Carlson joined the board of the Miss America organization in December and in her words: “I have been putting all of my energy and countless hours into moving this organization forward.”
One stark change she influenced was eliminating the swimsuit competition from the pageant.
However Mund accuses Carlson of stealing her lime light at title holder and her dissatisfaction with that has caused the internal leadership to clamp down hard on her in harsh and demeaning ways.
“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. 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.”
“Right away, the new leadership delivered an important message: There will be only one Miss America at a time, and she isn’t me.
To reinforce this, they told me that I’m not important enough to do big interviews, and that the major press is ‘obviously’ reserved for Gretchen. Step out of line there and not only do you get treated to being pulled into the office for a dressing down by Regina, but Brent Adams also joins in on the action.”
She continued to cite numerous instances where she was pushed aside for appearances and asks for the help of the future contestants to aid her in her role as “whistleblower” to the harassment and bullying she experienced as she tried to bring transparency to the job.
“I never expected — or wanted — to have to be a whistleblower. I am so saddened that the board seems more inclined to look the other way than to speak out. I ask you for your help, support, and voices, because I have no doubt that without them, the leadership will simply continue to push out, silence, and tighten security to reduce access around Miss America. Miss America is fragile right now. She needs all of us if she is going to survive.”
Carlson, however, has a different take on Mund’s remarks and tells People Magazine that Mund did make her fair share of appearances as Miss America.
“We brought her to New York the day before and provided her with media training. We asked Cara to come to the studio because we thought by chance, even at the last minute, they would maybe include her,” Carlson said.
But in the end, ABC decided to only air “a singular interview with Carlson.”
“There were so many interview requests that day,” Carlson said. “Cara did all the entertainment shows and a lot of radio and print interviews.”
Carlson did also say she intended to reach out to Mund and that she does sympathize with her and her struggles.
It’s hard to tell just where lines have been crossed here. If the organization truly wants to empower women, why not let the winners set the agenda? But then again, Miss America is a huge organization and there is no doubt a huge financial aspect to protect.
Mund and her Brown University business degree could add value there, but she might want to reconsider her approach next time before she publicly bites the hand that grrfd her.
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