Speaking backstage at ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Harrison said he had nothing but praise for the event and its 52 contestants.
“It is more of a sporting competition,” Harrison told ABC News, noting that the pageant’s ideal host needs to “treat the women as these competitors that have fought and really earned the right to be on that stage.”
While some detractors say that beauty pageants send the wrong message to young women, Harrison said the Miss America pageant, and the organization that started it back in 1921, are champions for women.
“It is easy to pick things on from afar,” he said, but added, “I would say do your research. It is easily, by far, the biggest scholarship organization for women. Period. And so … I love what it’s done for women, and so I think it is incredibly relevant — maybe more now than ever.
“All of these women are using this to better their lives, better their careers … finish school,” he continued. “It’s hard not to get behind an organization that just tries to empower women — considering I have a [daughter] in my house, you know, that I’m trying to raise and do the right thing with as well.”
The show that will end with current Miss America Betty Cantrell crowning her successor, will be held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. Judges this year include Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, singer Ciara, actresses Sara Foster and Laura Marano, singer Cole Swindell and former Miss America Sharlene Wells Hawkes. The telecast begins at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC.