The Miss America Organization is taking away the swimsuit competition from its nationally televised broadcast, saying it will no longer judge contestants on their appearance.
Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who is head of the organization's board of trustees, made the announcement Tuesday on "Good Morning America": "We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That's huge! And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition."
The former Fox News host, 51, said there will be changes in the evening gown portion of the competition. “We are no longer judging women when they come out in their chosen attire,” she explained. “It’s going to be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in when they talk about their social impact initiatives.”
Carlson was crowned Miss America in 1989. She has become a champion of the #MeToo movement, which began in October after movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and assault by scores of women. Carlson settled a lawsuit against former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes in 2016 after she and dozens of other women accused him of sexual harrassment leading to his resignation. Ailes died at age 77 in May 2017. “I could have never expected what would happen when I sued my former employer at Fox News for sexual harassment 22 months ago, but look what has happened,” she said on GMA. “Thousands of women have been inspired to know that they can stand up and speak up and their voices will be heard. If I’ve been a beacon of hope to any woman in that process, it has been worth it.”
The changes follow an email scandal in December in which former leaders denigrated the intelligence and personal lives of former Miss Americas.
That led to a shakeup at the top, and the group's top three leadership posts are now held by women. Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell resigned in December after leaked internal emails revealed that he and other executives made sexist and mygosonic comments about the competition’s former winners, including Carlson.
The changes will start with this year's broadcast on Sept. 9.