A rift has developed behind the scenes of the Miss America Organization, stemming in large part from the group’s controversial decision to end the swimsuit competition.
Four members of the pageant’s board — including two former Miss Americas and two state titleholders — decided to resign after brief stints on the job. However, exactly why the four women decided to leave the board has become a point of contention.
According to Page Six:
Kate Shindle (now president of the Actors’ Equity Association), Laura Kaeppler Fleiss (who married “Bachelor” whiz Mike Fleiss), Jennifer Vaden Barth and Valerie Crooker Clemens posted a message to a private Facebook group claiming that Miss America’s account of their departures was inaccurate.
Barth and Clemens claimed, ‘Neither of us resigned voluntarily’ and that ‘pre-signed’ resignation letters they’d had as interim members were used.
Fleiss wrote, ‘I stepped away from a board that I felt had become incredibly toxic.’
Shindle added, ‘Many of us . . . expressed concern that we were expected to be a rubber-stamp board . . . I felt that our good-faith attempts to practice oversight were characterized as destructive, hostile and/or unappreciative.’
That version of events was hotly disputed by the remaining members of the board, who contend that Fleiss and Schindle departed because of their opposition to former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson’s appointment as chair of the of the organization. The board further stated that Fleiss and Schindle, “maintained an adversarial tone that permeated every discussion and decision.” The board also claimed that Barth and Clemens “voluntarily and with full knowledge” offered their resignations.
In June, the Miss America Organization announced an end to the swimsuit portion of its competition and the practice of judging contestants specifically on their outward appearance. However, sources to Page Six claim that members of the organization felt misled as to the exact reasons why the competition was dropped. Saying they felt “misled that the choice had to do with the pageant’s TV broadcast.”
As one source said of the swimsuit cancellation: “That was an inflection point.”
Though, the Miss America Organization disputes that characterization as well.
“Despite assertions you may have heard, the swimsuit decision was made unanimously by the board, including the former trustees. Any attempt to portray that decision as one made on an uninformed or misinformed basis is false.”
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn