Miss America picks women for leadership spots

In this Aug. 30, 2017 photo contestants attend a welcoming ceremony for the Miss America competition on the Atlantic City, N.J., Boardwalk. On Thursday, May 17, 2018, the Miss America Organization announced it has installed women in the organization's three top leadership posts following an email scandal last winter involving male leaders. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
In this Aug. 30, 2017 photo, contestants attend a welcoming ceremony for the Miss America competition on the Atlantic City, N.J. Boardwalk. On Thursday, May 17, 2018, the Miss America Organization announced it has installed women in the organization's three top leadership posts following an email scandal last winter involving male leaders. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Miss America Organization is putting women in its three top leadership positions following an email scandal in which male officials were caught making vulgar and insulting comments about past winners of the beauty pageant.

The organization told The Associated Press Thursday it is appointing Regina Hopper as president and CEO of the Miss America Organization, and Marjorie Vincent-Tripp as chairwoman of the board of the Miss America Foundation.

Coupled with Gretchen Carlson leading the Miss America Organization's board of trustees, the group is moving on from the email scandal with women firmly in charge.

"By putting female leadership in place, we hope to send a strong signal." Hopper told the AP. "We want young women to see Miss America as a place where they can come and benefit and be empowered."

Hopper, a former Miss Arkansas, attorney and TV journalist, replaces Sam Haskell, whose emails about the intellect, appearance and sex lives of former Miss Americas led to his departure and a revamping of the group's top leadership in December. She is a former correspondent for CBS News, where she won an Emmy for her work on the show "48 Hours."

The scandal began when the Huffington Post published leaked emails showing pageant officials ridiculing past Miss Americas, including crass and sometimes vulgar comments about them. The emails included one that used a vulgar term for female genitalia to refer to past Miss America winners, one that wished that a particular former Miss America had died and others that speculated about how many sex partners one former Miss America has had.

Haskell declined to comment on the new leadership.

Vincent-Tripp, who was Miss America 1991, formerly served on the Miss America Board of Trustees. She is an assistant attorney general in Florida, and formerly worked as a TV journalist. As chair of the Miss America Foundation, she is responsible for educating the public about the foundation's values and building public support.

Vincent-Tripp replaces Lanny Griffith, who along with MAO chair Lynn Weidner stepped down during the transition.

Carlson, Miss America 1989, was named chairwoman of the Miss America board in January after the email scandal rocked the organization. Her sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes led to his departure.

Hopper said she hopes young women will realize that Miss America is now being led by women who have been through the program and have been helped by it, and that they will seek the same benefits from it.

Larry Hoffer, a volunteer at local and state pageants, said he is eager to see what the new leaders' vision will be and expects the women will leave the organization stronger.

"I think it's an excellent, excellent move," Hoffer said. "For a pageant that is strictly about empowering women to have not had female leadership for all of these years just never seemed to work. You basically had men deciding how women should be treated and featured on the telecast and how Miss America should be portrayed in the media. Having these women lead such a major scholarship organization shows that women are being taken seriously."

Jill Cook, a local pageant volunteer, said she saw the new appointments as "a step forward" for Miss America. She applauded the women's pedigrees and their success both in the pageant world and beyond.

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Associated Press writer Alexandra Villarreal in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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