Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989, Is Picked to Lead Pageant Following Email Scandal

Stephanie Petit

There she is, the new Miss America chairman.

Miss America Organization’s board of directors announced Monday that 1989 crown winner Gretchen Carlson will take over as chairman effective immediately.

Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, Miss America 2012, Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000, and Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998 were also named to the Board as Directors.

The new leadership comes less than two weeks after leaked emails surfaced by Huffington Post showed CEO Sam Haskell making disparaging comments about contest winners, including talk about their the sex lives and bodies using crude language. Haskell resigned on Dec. 23, along with two other top leaders, board chair Lynn Weidner and board member Tammy Haddad.

“Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” Carlson said in a statement. “In the end, we all want a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future.”

Sam Haskell with Miss America pageant contestants

The selection of Carlson, 51, marks the first time a former pageant winner has served as the leader of the nearly 100-year-old organization.

The former Fox & Friends co-host — who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes last year — recently penned an op-ed for Refinery29 amid sexual misconduct in the wake of the many allegations made against Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood heavyweights.

“My first thought when I heard about Harvey Weinstein? ‘Here we go again,’ ” began Carlson, whose lawsuit against the late Ailes led to his resignation, rocked the Fox News Network’s foundation and won her a $20 million settlement.

“The bad news is that sexual harassment is back in the headlines, with tales of another powerful man preying on women, insulated by enablers and victims too ashamed to come forward,” she said. “The good news is that sexual harassment is back in the headlines, precisely because women are finding the courage to tell their stories, and the strength to demand this sick behavior stop.”

Gretchen Carlson wins Miss America

The Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back author also told PEOPLE she still understands and empathizes with how hard it is for women to cope with the pain and emotional fallout, but now is the time to stand up.

“We must stop the cycle of silencing women and open up our corporate culture to be accepting of women’s complaints… where harassers are no longer protected — no matter who they are — and enablers stop enabling,” she said. “I’m proud that my voice started a conversation to get us where we are today. Women are saying enough! And women will have their voices heard! This is the tipping point!”