On October 16, 2018, three African-American state pageant winners alleged that David Marmel, the caucasian CEO and president of Mrs. America insulted them in a conversation by using the N-word and racist stereotypes.
The women shared their experiences alongside their lawyer, Gloria Allred. Additionally, a caucasian contestant said she overheard the conversation and shared her account.
The contestants have no plans to file a lawsuit, but want an apology and assurances that one else will have the same treatment.
"They simply want the Mrs. America pageant to be a place where everyone is respected, is treated equally and feels safe," Allred said.
Marmel told CNN he was "blindsided" by the accusations and that they were "untruthful, self-serving, nonsense bordering on reverse discrimination."
Each woman detailed the conversation that took place at a pageant week event.
"He went on to tell me how he had served. I thought that was going to be the end of the conversation but then said, and I quote, 'The asshole who kneels needs to stop disrespecting my flag,'" Kimberly Phillips, Mrs. Delaware said.
She responded that the gesture was about police brutality and coming from a military family, it didn't offend her.
"David then changed the subject and said, 'Well, you people need to stop killing each other,'" she said.
The women said they were worried about coming forward.
"People would think we were just upset about either not winning or placing the way we wanted. I'm hoping that by sharing my story, changes will occur within the Mrs. America pageant system," she said.