Despite Gretchen Carlson’s denial of ‘bullying,’ former Miss Americas organize to demand her ouster

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Miss America pageant Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson is not backing down amid a growing outcry for her to resign.

Despite a lengthy rebuttal posted by Carlson on Twitter Sunday, denying accusations by reigning Miss America Cara Mund of bullying, others have now joined the protest demanding the chairwoman step down.

Former Miss Americas Suzette Charles, Heather Whitestone and Caress Cameron-Jackson have joined others who have reportedly signed a petition demanding the organization’s entire board resign after Mund’s  letter published last week alleging that she was bullied and silenced by the pageant’s current leadership, which includes Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper.

“Our chair and CEO have systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis,” Mund wrote in a scathing five-page letter. “After a while, the patterns have clearly emerged, and the sheer accumulation of the disrespect, passive-aggressive behavior, belittlement, and outright exclusion has taken a serious toll.”

Former winners are speaking out on behalf of Mund who reportedly is not currently allowed by the Miss America organization to do interviews.

“I feel as though all of the leadership is complicit in this, and in order for us to move forward and to actually heal, we need to do the right thing right now, so that we can move forward and focus on who’s gonna be crowned Miss America on September 9,” Cameron-Jackson told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.

Carlson, a former Miss America and Fox News host shared that she was “surprised and saddened” by Mund’s accusations, responding in a statement on Sunday that at times addressed the reigning Miss America directly.

“I also want to be clear that I have never bullied or silenced you,” Carlson wrote, adding that the controversy has now cost the nonprofit organization $75,000 in scholarships.

The group is “very much disappointed that as a sister she sort of forgot where she came from,” Charles told “Inside Edition” on Monday. She also spoke out on the “Today” show, telling Megyn Kelly that Carlson “has been bullying for a long time.”

“Actually she’s bullied my sister here, Heather Whitestone,” Charles said. “This person has taken no responsibility for the way she’s treated our current Miss America.”

Carlson wanting “to be the face of the Miss America Organization” is part of the problem, according to Whitestone. Carlson, who was named chair of the pageant’s board of directors following the resignation of its previous chairman amid an email scandal, announced in June that there would be no more swimsuit competition as part of the event.

Jennifer Vaden Barth, Miss North Carolina in 1991, was among many who criticized Carlson’s response to Mund.

Kendall Morris, who was Miss Texas in 2011, called attention to what was missing in Carlson’s statement.

Many others, including former Miss America contestants, spoke out on Twitter as well, using the hashtag #StandWithCara.

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Frieda Powers

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