Former ‘Good Morning America’ executive producer accused of sexual assault
Michael Corn, a former longtime senior executive producer at ABC News, is accused of sexual assault and creating a toxic work environment in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a woman who worked for him as a producer.
The suit filed in New York State Court by “Good Morning America” producer Kirstyn Crawford also claims ABC failed to investigate the allegations when they were first brought to the company’s attention in 2017. ABC, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., is named as a defendant in the suit, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Crawford, 31, alleges that Corn assaulted her when she reported to him at “GMA” in 2015. The two were covering the Oscars in Los Angeles when Corn allegedly forcibly touched and kissed Crawford during an Uber trip back to their hotel after a party the night before the awards, according to the lawsuit. During the alleged incident, Corn told Crawford that he could help her career.
Corn, who was intoxicated at the time, according to the suit, allegedly touched and kissed Crawford again after she brought Advil to his hotel room at his request.
The suit also alleges two incidents where Corn allegedly sexually assaulted Jill McClain, a producer who worked for him while he oversaw “ABC World News Tonight.” McClain is not a plaintiff in the suit.
Corn denied the allegations. “I will be pursing all available legal remedies against these women and defending myself vigorously,” he said in a statement.
Corn held the top producing jobs at “ABC World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America” during his tenure at the network. He left abruptly in April and is now president of news for NewsNation, a cable channel owned by Nexstar Media Group.
Crawford’s suit says Corn was either terminated or forced to resign after an investigation into her allegations, which were formally reported to the company this February.
Cable channel NewsNation, launched last year, is searching for a lane in the highly polarized news landscape but has struggled to gain traction.
“We are committed to upholding a safe and supportive work environment and have a process in place that thoroughly reviews and addresses complaints that are made,” a Walt Disney Co. representative said in a statement. “ABC News disputes the claims made against it and will address this matter in court.”
A representative for Nexstar said the company had no comment on the matter.
ABC News did not state a reason for Corn’s departure when he left the company. His friends assumed it was because he was passed over for the position of ABC News president, which went to Kim Godwin, formerly of CBS.
Corn’s attorney Elizabeth Locke provided email correspondence her client had with Crawford during the 2015 business trip to show her claims are “demonstrably false.”
“Hours after the supposed incident, Ms. Crawford offered to bring me coffee and breakfast to my hotel room and asked for my hotel room number because she didn’t know it — the very same room where she now claims this incident occurred,” Corn said in a statement. “The same day, she repeatedly offered for me to share a car with her. And the same day she emailed me, after I helped counsel her through a work problem, ‘why are you so great?’ These are not the words and actions of a woman who had been assaulted hours before.”
The suit also alleges McClain was traveling on a plane with Corn in September 2010 when he allegedly began to massage her hand and arm. McClain says she asked him what he was doing and without answering Corn then began rubbing her upper right thigh with his left hand, the suit says. He then allegedly slipped his hand onto her genital area, rubbing it through her jeans.
A second incident occurred in April 2011, the suit said, when the “ABC World News Tonight” team traveled to London to cover the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. After drinks with a group that included anchor Diane Sawyer, Corn allegedly followed McClain back to her hotel room, pushed his way in and forcibly kissed her, according to the suit.
Corn also said that after the alleged incidents described by McClain, she repeatedly booked their air travel and continued to sit next to him. Corn said he was also invited to her wedding and a pre-wedding event limited to immediate friends and family.
“She repeatedly communicated to me and my wife that she missed me after leaving her position at ABC,” Corn said.
McClain said in the suit that she was so traumatized by the incidents with Corn that her ABC News career was derailed. She said she has had difficulty holding a job ever since.
The suit also alleges that ABC News executives failed to address complaints about Corn when they were first brought to their attention in 2017 because of his success as a producer.
“Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos learned of Crawford’s issues with Corn in late 2017 and reported it to Tanya Menton, a lawyer for ABC. Stephanopoulos then urged Crawford to contact Menton and tell her about the alleged assault.
Crawford also discussed the matter with Heather Riley, the communications executive in charge of “Good Morning America.” According to the suit, Riley told Crawford to “do what she thought was right” but cautioned that reporting the assault and harassment might get “messy.”
“Fearing retaliation from Corn, and fearing that making a formal complaint would do more harm than good or even result in losing her job, Crawford never called Menton,” the suit said.
The suit said ABC’s policy requires the company to investigate alleged misconduct. But nothing happened in 2017 after Menton, Riley and Derek Medina, a former “GMA” producer who is now an executive vice president at ABC News, learned of Crawford’s allegations.
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