The Walt Disney Co. does not plan on launching an independent investigation of how ABC handled reports of sexual assault allegations against the former top producer for Good Morning America, according to a report.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the executive producer of GMA, Simone Swink, told staffers this week that such an investigation was not happening “at this time.”
Kim Godwin, the president of ABC News, had told staffers in August that she wanted an independent investigation of the allegations, which were made against Michael Corn, who departed his post abruptly in April.
The Journal, citing a recording of Swink’s staff meeting, reported that she had been informed of the decision by Peter Rice, chairman of general entertainment content for The Walt Disney Co., who said it was outside of his “sphere of influence” to ask for such a probe.
The allegations are a matter of litigation, something that would make Disney resistant to launching an independent investigation given the potential liability, according to employment law experts.
A rep for ABC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The allegations against Corn became public last month after a GMA staffer, Kirstyn Crawford, filed a lawsuit against him and the network. She claims Corn sexually assaulted her during an Uber ride in Los Angeles in 2015, when they were there for coverage of the Academy Awards, and later that evening at their hotel.
In a statement after the lawsuit was filed, Corn said, “I vehemently deny any allegations that I engaged in improper sexual contact with another woman.” His attorney also disclosed emails, sent to Crawford’s attorney, in which she engages in a friendly conversation with Corn the day after the alleged incident occurred.
Crawford, who is anchor producer for George Stephanopoulos on GMA, claims in the lawsuit that in or around November 2017, Stephanopoulos learned of the alleged assault and reported it to Tanya Menton, a lawyer in the network’s litigation department. The lawsuit also said that publicist Heather Riley and business affairs executive vice president Derek Medina were aware of the allegations. But Crawford’s lawsuit said that she feared retaliation and did not report the claims herself until February of this year.
Her lawsuit also includes claims that another former ABC News staffer, Jill McClain, also alleged that Corn assaulted her in two separate incidents about a decade ago, but that she feared that her career would suffer if she reported it. McClain is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit but is supporting the case, according to Crawford’s complaint. Corn also denied McClain’s allegations.
Disney previously issued a statement on the lawsuit, saying, “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. ABC News disputes the claims made against it and will address this matter in court.”
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