An ABC News producer who has worked for years at “Good Morning America” has alleged that the show’s former top executive sexually assaulted her and another female staffer, and she claims the network did little to reprimand or punish him.
In a suit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kirstyn Crawford, a producer who works with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, alleges that Michael Corn, the former top producer at “Good Morning America,” assaulted her and another staffer, Jill McClain, on different occasions over a span of multiple years. Both women reported to Corn.
More from Variety
“ABC knew or should have known that Corn had a propensity to sexually harass female colleagues and that he perpetuated a hostile work environment at ABC,’ the suit alleges. “As early as 2017, ABC learned of Corn’s sexual assault on Plaintiff. Yet ABC did nothing to protect Plaintiff or remove Corn from his position of power. Indeed, Plaintiff has reason to believe that ABC was also aware of other women who complained against Corn. Instead, ABC looked the other way, elevated Corn through the ranks due to his commercial success as a producer, and facilitated the hostile workplace that Corn cultivated through his influence over subordinates’ careers, sexual harassment, gaslighting, and anger management issues.”
In a statement provided by his attorney, Elizabeth Locke, Corn said the allegations made against him were untrue. “I vehemently deny any allegations that I engaged in improper sexual contact with another woman,” he said, alleging that Crawford’s claims “are demonstrably false.” Along with the statement, Locke provided emails sent between Crawford and Corn on the dates he is alleged to have assaulted her, alleging they “demonstrate that these allegations are completely and demonstrably false and they belie any notion that Mr. Corn engaged in any misconduct toward Ms. Crawford.” The emails show conversations in which Crawford offers to bring Corn food or coffee. “The notion that Ms. Crawford would be cheerily offering to bring Advil, food, and coffee to the man who supposedly had improperly propositioned her just hours before — and in the same hotel
room no less — simply defies logic,” Locke says.
Corn also said in his statement that McClain’s allegations are “equally as fabricated,” and said he would “be pursuing all available legal remedies against these women and defending myself vigorously.”
Corn left ABC News abruptly in April, just after Walt Disney had announced a new president for the news division. No reason was given for Corn’s exit at the time, even though the announcement was said to have surprised staffers, and “GMA” is a critical pillar of ABC and Disney’s programming strategy. ABC News has yet to name a replacement for Corn, who was named president of news for News Nation, a start-up news operation backed by large U.S. station owner Nexstar Media Group. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on the lawsuit against the TV executive.
“We have no comment on anything that may or may not have happened prior to Mr. Corn’s employment with Nexstar,” a spokesman for the company said in a statement.
ABC News said it “disputes the claims made against it and will address this matter in court,” in a statement, noting that the company is “committed to upholding a safe and supportive work environment and have a process in place that thoroughly reviews and addresses complaints that are made.”
The suit details allegations that Corn made unwanted sexual advances against both Crawford and McClain at different times during his tenure at “Good Morning America,” which he joined seven years ago, and while leading “World News Tonight” while it was anchored by Diane Sawyer. McClain alleges Corn groped her against her will during a 2010 plane flight from Los Angeles to New York, and that he assaulted her while traveling in London in 2011, while Crawford claims Corn assaulted her in 2015 during a trip to Los Angeles to cover the Academy Awards.
The suit alleges that Stephanopoulos heard about some of the claims against Corn by Crawford in 2017, and disclosed them to executives and urged Crawford to reach out to an ABC attorney to discuss further. But Crawford “fearing that making a formal complaint would do more harm than good or even result in losing her job,” did not follow up, according to the suit.
Revelation of the claims may pose a new challenge for Nexstar’s News Nation. The company is using what it says is non-partisan news programming to transform the cable network once known as WGN America, but its efforts have run into headwinds: low ratings and some staff turnover. There has also been concern that the programming will take on conservative, not centrist, leanings, with Bill Shine, a former top executive at Fox News Channel, having worked as a consultant. Nexstar continues to build out its schedule, however, enlisting former Fox News correspondent Leland Vittert and legal analyst Dan Abrams to join its lineup.
Best of Variety