When Kim Godwin was appointed president of ABC News in April, one of her goals was to improve the culture of the division known for its snake pit atmosphere.
But the explosive allegations in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a “Good Morning America” producer accusing her former boss Michael Corn of sexually assaulting her and another employee during her tenure with the network show just how Godwin will find it difficult to move. cheeky.
ABC News is now the fourth television news organization to find itself mired in a sexual harassment scandal in recent years. Fox News, NBC News and CBS News have all seen high profile presenters (Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose) and executives (Roger Ailes and Jeff Fager) lose their careers after subordinates go public with the allegations .
The Walt Disney Co. unit had escaped much of the harassment controversy until “GMA” producer Kirstyn Crawford filed her lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday. Along with the assault charges, the prosecution alleges
that three network news executives – Derek Medina, Tanya Menton and Heather Riley – failed to act after learning about her issues with Corn in late 2017.
Crawford did not file a formal complaint until February of this year; Corn left the company in May. Corn had been a senior executive producer of “GMA” from 2014 through April and previously oversaw “ABC World News Tonight,” where a former employee also alleged assaulting her twice.
Corn, now president of news for Nexstar Media Group’s NewsNation cable channel, has denied the allegations. He received a vote of confidence from his wife, Claudette, with a Facebook post showing them in an embrace. “I couldn’t love anyone more than that,” her post said. “A perfect human husband and father. Thank you for all you do for us.”
Inside ABC News there was anger and shock over the lawsuit, particularly that allegations of Corn’s actions were not immediately investigated when Crawford first discussed them. A few years ago.
Godwin, who joined CBS’s ABC News in May, said in a meeting with staff that she didn’t realize how broken the culture was at the company, according to a person who attended.
A Wall Street Journal article said Godwin wanted an independent investigation into the allegations, including the role of the three leaders. But a Disney representative has not confirmed that such an investigation will take place.
The division went through a heartbreaking time last year when Barbara Fedida, longtime ABC News chief business officer, left following an internal investigation into racist remarks she made about talent. on air, including “Good Morning America” star Robin Roberts.
Roberts was among the most upset with Crawford’s trial when it was discussed on a conference call Thursday, according to three people familiar with the matter. She said she would have “burned the place” trying to protect the victim if she had been aware of the situation.
Crawford said she spoke to “GMA” co-host George Stephanopoulos about the alleged incidents with Corn in late 2017.
Stephanopoulos urged Crawford to report the incidents to Menton, an ABC lawyer. He discussed the allegations with Menton; Riley, a communications manager; and Medina, then senior vice president of commercial affairs. He later told Crawford that Menton was waiting for his call.
Riley told Crawford that coming forward would be “messy,” depending on the costume.
But Crawford feared retaliation and the loss of her job if she came forward, according to the lawsuit.
Stephanopoulos continued to work with Corn after this period. Corn was known on ABC News for having a great relationship with on-air talent as he kept “GMA” the most-watched morning show during his run.
The Walt Disney Co. said in a statement Wednesday that the company is “committed to maintaining a safe and supportive work environment and to a process that thoroughly reviews and deals with complaints filed. ABC News is disputing them. claims against him and settle this matter in court.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.