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Our view: If true, Cara Mund was right to unveil pageant issues

Miss America Cara Mund. Forum News Service file photo

What if even a few of the claims made by Cara Mund are accurate? If so, then Mund — the reigning Miss America and North Dakota's first woman to achieve the honor — has appropriately pulled back the curtains to show the inner workings of what is portrayed as a noble endeavor meant to empower young women.

Mund, in her final month as Miss America, sparked controversy when she wrote to former winners of the pageant. The letter, critical of the organization, was leaked online.

"I strongly believe that my voice is not heard nor wanted by our current leadership," Mund wrote. "Nor do they have any interest in knowing who I am and how much my experiences relate to positioning the organization for the future. 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."

The letter was especially critical of Gretchen Carlson, the organization's chairwoman and the 1989 Miss America.

Mund claims she was told she's "not important enough to do big interviews." Also, Mund says she was told that during interviews she is to always mention three subjects: the MeToo movement, that Carlson went to Stanford University, and that Miss America remains relevant.

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Mund said the organization banned her from posting on its social media sites. Instead, the organization posted on her behalf without telling the public it's not Mund.

She also said she had to purchase her own clothing for appearances and that most of her outfits were rejected. Mund claims she was ridiculed for her choices and for wearing the same outfits too often. When she reached out to other former Miss Americas about the issue, Mund said she was reprimanded by CEO Regina Hopper, who told Mund that "problems and concerns had to be kept 'in the family.'"

Carlson responded over the weekend by saying she was "surprised and saddened" by Mund's letter.

It's a lot to digest, and a surprising criticism for a nonprofit group intent on giving women a true platform to lead and inspire.

Mund is a graduate of Brown University and hopes to someday run for political office. She obviously has intelligence, grace and talent, verified by the pageant itself when it crowned her in 2017.

We believe Mund should not have carte blanche ability to freelance her way through her year as Miss America. Whether she has done that should be an important part of this debate. Has she followed the rules to which she agreed?

Yet even if only a portion of Mund's accusations are true, it's a startling revelation for an organization that twice uses the word "empower" in its own description on the Miss America website.

The organization calls itself a "movement of empowering young women everywhere to achieve their dreams." It also claims to have "evolved with our society, serving as a voice for women's empowerment."

Miss America should indeed empower women. Censoring social media posts, criticizing clothing choices and laying out specific and trite talking points for all interviews is not empowering. It's belittling and, if true, worthy of criticism.