Carlson says she never bullied Miss America

Carlson says she never bullied Miss America
© Greg Nash

Miss America chairwoman Gretchen Carlson is defending herself in a new statement that denies she ever bullied or sought to silence the reigning Miss America, Cara Mund.

In a statement, Carlson said she was “surprised and saddened beyond words” at Mund’s allegations. She also said she had sought to talk to Mund about her issues, but that Mund had said she would only talk to her through email.

Mund drew headlines last week when she accused pageant leaders of controlling, bullying and manipulating her. She said Carlson and other pageant leaders had “systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America.”

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Carlson, the 1989 Miss America winner who has enacted reforms at the pageant, including the elimination of the swimsuit competition, said, “I also want to be clear that I have never bullied or silenced you.”

“In fact, I have acknowledged to you and your parents many times that the organization understands the frustration of serving during a change-filled and stressful year. It surely was not what you had expected,” she said in her statement.

Carlson then said Mund’s allegations had led to the organization losing $75,000 in scholarship money.

“Friday, as an organization, we learned that $75,000 in scholarships which would have been the first scholarship increase in years, is no longer on the table as a direct result of the explosive allegations in your letter,” Carlson wrote. “The impact won't stop there — we are already seeing a negative ripple effect across the entire organization and I am so concerned that it will dilute the experience for the next woman selected to wear the crown.”

Carlson has come under criticism for that part of her letter by critics who said it was wrong for her to blame Mund for the lost scholarships.

“More reckless speech on behalf of the Miss America Organization,” Kate Shindle, an actor and activist who won the pageant in 1998, tweeted early Monday. “The board members are clearly unable to control their chair. Time for a change.”

Carlson, a former host of “Fox & Friends,” left broadcast media after her sexual harassment lawsuit against late Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes in July 2016.

She was hired to lead the Miss America pageant after an email controversy involving the previous leadership. But some of the changes she has instituted have been unpopular with some in the state pageant system. Pageant officials representing 19 states have called on current leadership to step down. 

Mund, who won representing North Dakota, said she has not been invited to meetings, left out of interviews and called by the wrong name by organization officials. 

The next Miss America competition will be held in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 9.