Project 21’s Gardner Warned of Miss America’s Troubles Before Recent Scandal

The Miss America Organization is imploding, but Project 21 member Day Gardner already warned us months ago about why it’s happening.

Day is a pioneer in integrating Miss America. At the 1977 pageant, she advanced to the semifinals as Miss Delaware – becoming the first black contestant to compete throughout the entire televised event.

Commenting on what’s happening now, Day explains:

Liberal culture co-opted the Miss America Organization.

The inherent problem is that Miss America was never meant to be political. As a result, the pageant has now lost its focus. Political agendas dominating it these days detract from its original, wholesome underpinnings. The latest scandal that swept out the organization’s leadership is completely predictable.

A liberal mindset that lost sight of the real reasons for the pageant seems to have taken control of the organization. Women who should have been revered and celebrated were demonized. It’s time for it to return to its roots.

Truthfully, I think – in light of all that has transpired over the years with the pageant –the circus’ “Greatest Show on Earth” may have run its course.

But the organization is saying it is reaching out to people such as Day for help.

Hateful, disparaging emails about former Miss Americas sent among pageant leaders were recently revealed by the Huffington Post. Topics such as the weight and sex lives of former winners were discussed, as well as potential collusion to ruin the reputations of Miss Americas out of favor with the now-purged leadership.

After the emails were made public, a large of portion of the Miss America Organization’s leadership resigned in disgrace:

  • CEO Sam Haskell
  • President Josh Randle
  • Board of Directors Chairman Lynn Weidner
  • Board member Tammy Haddad (a former producer for liberal host Chris Matthews at MSNBC)

About the inherent troubles with the way the pageant evolved, Day said:

Miss America is supposed to celebrate the beauty, spirit and accomplishment of America’s “girl next door.” But recent pageants became political affairs, with elements meant to serve an agenda beyond the calling attention to the accomplishments of the contestants. It offended me as a former participant, and drove away viewers.

The televised “Miss America Competition” has fallen in viewership from 8.6 million in 2013 to 6.25 million in 2017.

In a commentary about the leftward tilt of the pageant that was published by the Washington Times this past September, Day wrote:

In choosing Miss America for 2018, contestants were asked a series of loaded current events questions. Miss Missouri was asked about President Trump’s alleged election collusion with the Russians. Miss North Dakota was asked if Mr. Trump should have withdrawn from the Paris climate accord. Miss New Jersey got the question about Confederate statues. Miss North Dakota was the most decisively anti-Trump. She won. Draw your own conclusion.

These questions now capture the most attention. In 2009, Miss California was admonished by a judge for not agreeing with him on same-sex marriage. In 2015, Miss Tennessee was criticized by pro-life groups for false statements about Planned Parenthood services to make a case for public funding of the nation’s largest abortion provider. Yet the organization reportedly told the 2012 Miss Delaware not to discuss her pro-life views.

These questions didn’t exist when I competed. Swimsuit and evening wear modeling remain a constant, but the pageants of my day placed value in morals and tradition over a pretty face. A good reputation, as Vanessa Williams found out, was a requirement to wear the tiara as the goodwill ambassador for young American women…

There’s a lot to be lost by turning the pageant into a cultural playground of the radical left. The Miss America title may someday no longer fit. When will a divorcee demand to compete? When will they drop gender roles altogether and open the pageant to those who choose their own gender or claim no gender whatsoever?

In their exposed emails, the former Miss America officials went after Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan – commenting on her weight and alleged promiscuity. Haddad suggested hiring a private investigator “to get something” on Hagan because Hagan and Haskell were publicly feuding. Haddad also called Miss America 1989 (and former Fox News Channel host) Gretchen Carlson a “snake” for not supporting the organization against Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle and her critical 2014 book – Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain.

Day added:

In its early days, Miss America was instrumental in introducing a more close-minded America to the talents, skills and perseverance of women who might have otherwise been ignored. It was truly the showcase of the best our nation had to offer. My concerns about the way the pageant was changing were confirmed by the leaked emails of its leaders.

What is truly despicable, however, can now hopefully be used to help rededicate the pageant to its original mission of promoting America’s best and brightest.

The Miss America Organization says it is now reaching out to former Miss Americas to help them search for new leadership. Some – including Carlson and Miss America 1977 Dorothy Benham – are hoping for a clean sweep that brings in an entirely new board as well.

Day’s phone will hopefully be ringing soon.


Correction: The 2009 incident referenced in the commentary actually happened at the Miss USA pageant rather than Miss America. We apologize for the error.

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