Fired ABC News Staffers Don’t Plan to Go Quietly

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

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The aftershock of last week’s bloodbath at ABC News, in which 50 staffers were laid off, continued to reverberate within the Disney-owned network on Monday as some now-ex staffers have lawyered up and are weighing legal action over their dismissal, Confider has learned.

Notoriously aggressive Hollywood lawyer Bryan Freedman has engaged several of these pissed-off former ABC staffers and is now representing award-winning investigative journalist Chris Vlasto, who was dismissed last week alongside beloved newsgathering SVP Wendy Fisher, talent VP Mary Noonan, talent and strategy SVP Galen Gordon, Executive Editorial Producer Heather Riley, and comms VP Alison Rudnick.

Within minutes of the last person being notified of their axing, the names of pink-slipped top executives appeared in a Variety story complete with a memo from embattled ABC News boss Kim Godwin that was handed to media via ABC comms boss Van Scott. Some staffers’ families learned their loved ones had lost their jobs by reading it in the press reports, sources told us, while several also had their emails cut off almost immediately. (The move wildly differed from other Disney divisions that had slashed jobs but let staffers have access to their email and say their proper goodbyes.)

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Sources told us that Scott has apparently earned the nickname “Van-ity Fair” over his handling of Godwin’s bizarre interview with Vanity Fair, and has lost half his comms shop’s staff in less than a year. According to three people familiar with the matter, he has been forced to undergo management training following a series of HR complaints.

Godwin, meanwhile, has continued to ruffle internal feathers, repeatedly jetting across the country while the network makes steep cuts. The news boss flew first class to L.A. for a long Oscars weekend with her executive assistant but then flew to D.C for the Gridiron Club dinner on that Saturday night before flying back to L.A. again all in the same weekend, two people familiar with the matter told Confider. All of this comes at a time when ABC has a ban on non-essential travel.

Earlier this year, Godwin also shocked staffers—many of whom came in to work at the last-minute to cover Pope Benedict’s funeral over new years—when she returned from winter break only to complain about renovations at her home in the Poconos, telling them, “I called American Express and told them to get me to the Caribbean.”

Elsewhere, sources told us, Godwin has told underlings that Disney Entertainment Co-Chairman Dana Walden “doesn’t know anything about news” and that when the network secures a big booking or exclusive they should tell her so she can personally notify the Disney exec.

Walden may soon be getting her updates from someone else, however, as Confider has learned that Disney has been reaching out to prospective candidates for a top ABC comms job that would report into Burbank, telling them the gig would involve helping manage an “executive transition.”

A rep for Disney declined to comment.

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