Miss America CEO mocked and shamed contestants, emails show
The Miss America Organization CEO mocked pageant contestants for their weight and sex lives, according to leaked emails.
The comments made by CEO Sam Haskell caused their television sponsor, Dick Clark Productions, to cut ties with the nearly 100-year-old pageant.
The emails reportedly include vulgar references to past winners and comments about their sex lives.
Former contestants have criticised the "appalling" revelations.
"When I first read the emails in the article, I wasn't shocked, but I was validated," said Mallory Hagan, the 2013 winner who was mocked in some of the emails.
"For the longest time, I've tried to explain to people around me that this is happening or these things are being said," she told NBC.
The three years of emails were first revealed by the Huffington Post, but were confirmed by the production company that broadcasts the programme.
Dick Clark Productions said in a statement they had been made aware of the emails "several months ago".
"We were appalled by their unacceptable content and insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the Miss America Organization (MAO) board of directors conduct a comprehensive investigation and to take appropriate action to address the situation," the production company said.
"Shortly thereafter, we resigned our board positions and notified MAO that we were terminating our relationship with them."
In the emails, which have not been seen by the BBC, the CEO of the nonprofit organisation apparently exchanged vulgar and demeaning comments with a writer for the show.
In a statement to the BBC, the Miss America Organization said that Mr Haskell, who earns $500,000 per year, was at the time "under unreasonable distress resulting from intense attacks on his family from disgruntled stakeholders".
"Although strictly intended for private communication, these illegally procured emails contain inappropriate language that is unbecoming at best and is not in any way, indicative of the character or integrity of MAO or its representatives," the statement continued.
They add that the board apologies for "any concerns or ill feelings this situation has caused".