ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Signs appeared around Atlantic City Thursday criticizing Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, as “so fake” and a bully hours before the second night of preliminary competition was to take place.
Hung from traffic lights and glued to a utility box, signs appeared Thursday morning. They turned up as bus stops, as well. No one had taken responsibility for putting them up.
They reference claims from the outgoing Miss America, Cara Mund. Mund said that Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper bullied and silenced her during her reign, which ends Sunday.
Carlson, the former Fox News host and a former Miss America, did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but both women have repeatedly denied bullying Mund.
The signs appear to parody Carlson’s book “Be Fierce.” They include the same photo of her that appears on her book cover, but with the words “So Fake” and “private bully, public liar.”
In addition, someone hung a pageant sash on the Miss America statue just outside Boardwalk Hall, where the competition takes place, that reads “Gretchen Sucks.”
This year’s pageant is taking place amid a revolt by state organizations, most of which want Carlson and Hopper to resign; 46 of the 51 groups (the District of Columbia is included) have signed letters seeking their resignation.
They are unhappy with the way the decision to eliminate the swimsuit competition from the pageant was reached, among other issues.
The protest runs the risk of overshadowing the second night of preliminaries that is scheduled to happen Thursday night. The first night, on Wednesday, was free of any reference to the controversy.
Contestants from Florida and Wisconsin picked up wins Wednesday in the first night of preliminary competition.
Miss Florida Taylor Tyson won the talent competition for a piano rendition of “Mephisto’s Waltz” by Lizst.
Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei won the onstage interview competition for her comments on how higher education should be more affordable and more widely accessible.
Mund did not reference the leadership controversy in her opening remarks Wednesday, which followed a prolonged standing ovation. But she did pay tribute to local and state officials without mentioning national ones.
“This only exists because of our volunteers,” she said. “We wouldn’t have any organization if it weren’t for them.”
Scholarships totaling nearly $506,000 will be awarded, including $50,000 for the new Miss America; $25,000 for the first runner-up; $20,000 for the second runner-up; $15,000 for the third runner-up, and $10,000 for the fourth runner up.
The third and final night of preliminaries will be held Friday.
The next Miss America will be crowned Sunday night in Atlantic City.