ATLANTIC CITY — A "Gretchen Sucks" sash was placed on the statue of Miss America outside Boardwalk Hall on Thursday morning, along with several "So Fake" posters mocking Miss America chair Gretchen Carlson, who has come under fire from all sides after taking over the storied institution, which is set to have its televised crowning on Sunday night.
The posters, which were briefly hanging from traffic-light poles on Dover and Florida Avenues and on an electric box near the Atlantic City Sheraton hotel, were parody book covers entitled So Fake, an apparent reference to Carlson's book, Be Fierce.
Private Bully, Public Liar, read the subtitle. It had a "52 percent off, No Swimsuits, no ratings" sticker image on a picture of Carlson.
The defacing of the statue and the mocking banners across town were the first hint of the turmoil within the storied Miss America and come during the busy week leading up to the pageant, a week in which the Miss America 2019 candidates, and the reigning queen, have mostly hewed to noncontroversial festivities.
Atlantic City police spokesman Kevin Fair said late Thursday that the department was "looking into the posting of the signs."
Carlson, who rose to her position after an email scandal mocking former Miss Americas ousted the then-current leadership, made the decision to eliminate the pageant's swimsuit competition this year; instead, an expanded interview segment was brought in. The runway was also eliminated, and a red carpet segment put it its place. The changes have roiled the state pageants, 46 of which have signed a petition seeking her ouster.
On Thursday, there was no comment from the Miss America Organization, whose televised crowning will take place on ABC on Sunday evening. Preliminaries are underway inside Boardwalk Hall, with the new swimsuit-less format.
On Wednesday, Carlson, in passing, said things were going "great," but said she would not answer any other questions.
Miss America, Cara Mund, who accused Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper of bullying her and subjecting her to demeaning workplace harassment, appeared on stage for the first night of preliminaries but gave no hint of any controversy. On Thursday, she signed autographs inside Boardwalk Hall. She and Carlson made a joint appearance last week during an arrival ceremony, but did not interact.
Suzette Charles, Miss America 1984, who has been in the forefront of a group of former Miss Americas and state pageant organizations calling for Carlson's resignation, said via email Thursday that she had been sent photos of the posters and sash. Asked who might be responsible, Charles said, "No one knows."
Fair, the police spokesman, said early Thursday of the posters and sash, "We didn't remove them."
On the Boardwalk on Thursday, near the now sash-free statue, a group of officials from the Miss Mississippi organization frowned on the tactics, calling them "childish and asinine."