The president, Josh Randle, told The Associated Press his comment responding to an email to his private account about the physical appearance of 2013 winner Mallory Hagan came months before he started working for the Miss America Organization in 2015. But he said it was wrong.
"I apologize to Mallory for my lapse in judgment," Randle said on Saturday. "It does not reflect my values or the values I worked to promote at the Miss America Organization. Although this terrible situation was not caused or driven by me, in light of recent events and new developments, I am no longer willing to continue in my capacity as president and earlier today offered my resignation to the MAO Board of Directors.
Ex-Miss Americas shamed by pageant CEO call for his ouster
"I feel terrible, but this is the right thing to do," he said.
Randle said his resignation was voluntary and had not been requested by the board of Miss America, which is based in Atlantic City.
Randle was one of three top Miss America officials to resign Saturday over the scandal, which began Thursday when the Huffington Post published leaked emails showing pageant officials ridiculing past Miss Americas, including crass and sometimes vulgar comments about them.
The emails included one that used a vulgar term for female genitalia to refer to past Miss America winners, one that wished that a particular former Miss America had died and others that speculated about how many sex partners another former Miss America has had.
CEO Sam Haskell and Chairman Lynn Weidner also resigned on Saturday. Haskell's resignation is effective immediately, while Randle and Weidner will remain for a few weeks to help with a leadership transition. Dan Meyers, who had been vice chairman of the board, was named interim chairman.
The organization announced the resignations a day after dozens of former Miss Americas, including Hagan, signed a petition calling on the group's leadership to step down because of the emails.
Haskell said he made "a mistake of words."
"Those who know my heart know that this is not indicative of my character, nor is it indicative of my business acumen," Haskell wrote in a statement issued Friday.
Several of the emails targeted Hagan, claiming she had gained weight after winning and speculating about how many men she had sex with.
The emails already cost the pageant its television production partner and raised questions about the future of the nationally televised broadcast from Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall the week after Labor Day each year. dick clark productions told the AP on Thursday that it cut ties with the Miss America Organization over the emails, calling them "appalling."
Also on Saturday, one of the main recipients of fundraising from the Miss America Organization said it was reviewing its association with Miss America. The Children's Miracle Network Hospitals said it was "conducting an immediate review of the situation and will take appropriate actions."
"We are appalled by the behavior reported in the media and add our voice to others demanding investigation, action and change," the group said in a statement.