November 28, 2020

Sam Haskell's emails and the University of Mississippi alumnus who helped expose them

(Editor’s Note: Magnolia State Live is publishing an exclusive interview with former Miss America official Brent Adams in response to this story and will update the following accordingly.)
Sam Haskell’s alleged email exchanges as CEO of the Miss America Organization (MAO) expose years of sexist, derogatory remarks about former contestants, leaving many to wonder where he and the longtime pageant program will go from here.

Sam and Mary Haskell express their love for Ole Miss and gratitude for the dedication of the Sam and Mary Haskell Theatre held Friday afternoon, Oct. 12, 2012 at the Ford Center. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications


Haskell and his wife, Mary, were college sweethearts at the University of Mississippi, a school with unique ties to the Miss America Organization beyond Haskell’s tenure that began in 2005 after a successful run at William Morris as its worldwide head of television. Alums Mary Ann Mobley and Lynda Lee Mead wore the coveted crown in back-to-back years in 1959 and 1960, founding the school’s unofficial boast that it “redshirts Miss Americas.”
The Haskells’ careers in television and the recording industry have long been a point of pride for the university and its alumni base. Mary, a former Miss Mississippi, has been invited back over the years to perform the national anthem at sporting events. In 2012, the main theatre in the on-campus performing arts center was named for the couple.
A scalding story published this week by The Huffington Post details Haskell’s alleged behavior according to years of email exchanges. It also reveals that Brent Adams—an Ole Miss graduate who worked closely with Haskell from May 2012 to February 2015 working for his production company and as development director of the Miss America Organization—played a critical role in exposing those emails.
 

Haskell vs. Mallory Hagan

Adams was included in many of the internal exchanges between Haskell and other MAO leaders—many of which centered on former Miss America Mallory Hagan, who was crowned in January 2013.
Hagan, who got to know Adams while spending time at the Haskells’ home in Oxford that year, started dating him after her Miss America reign had ended, a mutual decision between the two to avoid blurring personal and professional interests.
Haskell, who Adams says wanted him to date his daughter, Mary Lane, was less than pleased.

Adams recalled an encounter with Haskell at his home in which Haskell attempted to convince Adams to break up with Hagan and instead date his daughter. Haskell stretched out his arms and told Adams, “All of this can be yours,” ostensibly referring to his Oxford mansion and the family’s money.
“You don’t need a piece of trash like Mallory. You need someone with class and money like my daughter,” he said, according to Adams. (Source: HuffPo)
Adams didn’t listen and Haskell didn’t give up.
On a trip to New York with the Haskell family, Haskell sent a text by mistake to a group chat with Adams suggesting his daughter should try to hold his hand. A Venmo transaction between Adams and Hagan (which can be seen publicly by others who use the app) was also cause for concern, Adams says, leading Haskell to confront him about why he was still in touch with her.
 

Fat-shaming, sex-shaming and the unraveling of Hagan’s career

Haskell’s comments about Hagan didn’t end at whether she was a more suitable girlfriend than his daughter.
Several exchanges between Haskell and other leadership, including Ole Miss alumnus Josh Randle who is now president and chief operating officer of MAO, reveal remarks about her weight and sex life long after she was no longer the reigning Miss America.

“OMG she is huge…and gross…why does he want that?????” Haskell said in response to an email from MAO board member Lynn Weidner who sent a recent photo of Hagan. He was presumably referring to Adams’ still-ongoing relationship with Hagan.
Haskell forwarded the email to Randle, who replied with, “She’s a healthy one!! Hahaha.”
Months earlier, an exchange between Haskell and the pageant’s lead writer Lewis Friedman (who was fired following HuffPo’s story) revealed further disdain for Hagan.

Friedman replied, “Mallory’s preparing for her new career … as a blimp in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade As she continues to destroy her own credibility, her voice will attract less and less notice while she continues her descent to an unhappy pathetic footnote.”
Friedman ended the email with, “Ps. Are we four the only ones not to have f***** Mallory?”
Haskell replied and said, “It appears we are the only ones!” (Source: HuffPo)
 
Adams, who is now Director of Strategic Partnerships at The Juilliard School in New York, severed professional ties with Haskell in February 2015, stepping down from his roles within Haskell’s production company and the Miss America Organization.
Haskell’s concern about Hagan continued after Adams’ departure, according to internal emails which suggest her once “lucrative” pageant coaching business was impacted by MAO’s implementation of a policy that prohibited contestants from having coaches without prior approval. According to HuffPo, Hagan ended up on an informal list of coaches contestants weren’t allowed to use.
An email exchange including Haskell, Randle and board member Tammy Haddad in late 2015 suggests Haskell felt publicly attacked by Hagan on social media, accusing her of also attacking his family, though it’s unclear what she might have done to warrant his remarks.
The exchange that follows includes Haddad suggesting Haskell hire an investigator, to which Haskell replies:
“Thoughts on Tammy’s note below? Threatening her won’t work and we already have ‘enough info on her’ to shut down Ft. Knox…..ugh. I really think the best way is to shut down her social media, and convince the Formers to ostracize her” (Source: HuffPo) 
Hagan, an Alabama native, returned to the South in 2016 to shift directions career-wise and is now a television news anchor in Georgia.
In August 2017, more than two years after Adams’ departure, he and a former Miss America board member met with Dick Clark Productions to discuss Haskell’s behavior, email exchanges in tow. A month later, MAO’s attorneys filed a cease-and-desist order against Adams, saying he violated a non-disclosure agreement by releasing the emails.
Even when Dick Clark executives met with Miss America board members and presented the emails, the organization took no action to make leadership changes. HuffPo’s story prompted Dick Clark Productions to sever ties with the Miss America Organization, delivering a crushing blow to the organization and its resources.
Haskell’s remarks and Randle’s prominent position leave them at the center of yet another front-page scandal involving power-driven harassment toward women—all of which might have remained quiet without a fellow Ole Miss alum taking the steps to expose it.