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Anger and confusion inside ABC News after former ‘Good Morning America’ boss is sued for alleged sexual assault

<i>Mary Altaffer/AP</i><br/>ABC News staffers are angry and confused after former 'Good Morning America' boss is sued for alleged sexual assault. This file photo shows the ABC logo.
Mary Altaffer/AP
ABC News staffers are angry and confused after former 'Good Morning America' boss is sued for alleged sexual assault. This file photo shows the ABC logo.

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Staffers are angry, confused, and demanding answers inside ABC News after a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleged that former “Good Morning America” boss Michael Corn sexually assaulted two staffers. The allegations, which Corn has denied, have rocked all levels of the news network, I’m told by multiple sources. As one source put it to me, “There is a lot of anger and confusion and people wanting to understand what happened…”

The lawsuit

News about the lawsuit jolted across people’s phones via a push alert from The Wall Street Journal Wednesday morning. Reporter Joe Flint scooped that Corn, who had inexplicably left ABC News earlier this year, was facing sexual assault allegations from two of his former colleagues. The “GMA” producer who filed the suit against Corn and ABC, Kirstyn Crawford, said she was assaulted in 2015 during a trip to cover the Academy Awards. Crawford also said Corn assaulted former ABC News producer Jill McClain in 2010 while on a flight and in 2011 during a trip to London.

Corn’s legal team fired back with emails showing Crawford and Corn engaging in friendly banter hours after the alleged assault took place. Corn said in a statement that the emails prove her claims “are demonstrably false.” He said her messages were “not the words and actions of a woman who had been assaulted hours before.” He also said McClain’s claims “are equally as fabricated.” He said she invited him to his wedding and “repeatedly communicated to me and my wife that she missed me after leaving her position at ABC.”

For its part, ABC only put out a terse statement that said, “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.” A spokesperson for the network declined to say anything more…

Inside Godwin’s 3pm call

Around 3pm ET, ABC News staffers got a curious email from newsgathering SVP Wendy Fisher, informing them that the afternoon editorial call with President Kim Godwin had been delayed until 3:10pm. The call is usually reserved for senior ABC News personnel, so the email — which was sent to a large listserv — baffled people, according to sources I spoke to. Then, at 3:11pm ET, nearly 500 ABC News staffers got another email inviting them to join the call.

At the top of the call, Godwin — who took charge earlier this year — read ABC’s statement. She said that she came to ABC News to help change the culture and is committed to doing so. She said she wanted to be there for staffers and that she was addressing the issue Wednesday afternoon because she didn’t want to wait until the 9am call the following day. “I’m here,” she said at one point. “You know how to reach me. Call me. If you need anything, even just if you need someone to listen.”

Godwin then took questions from a frustrated staff. Godwin was asked why the statement ABC News issued said that the network “disputed” the allegations. She answered that she didn’t believe it to be a blanket statement, and that the company has certain feelings toward certain allegations. Godwin was asked why everyone learned about the allegations from The Wall Street Journal, instead of from management. Her answer: because the allegations were made in a lawsuit.

The questions from ABC’ers were not in short supply. Bottom line: It was a call full of raw emotion. I’m told one person yelled. Another person cried. As one source put it to me, “It was definitely a tense call…”

Will “GMA” address the allegations?

According to sources who were on the call, Godwin was asked whether “GMA” would address the story on Thursday, but didn’t give a clear answer. I checked with an ABC News rep, but didn’t hear back. The network still hasn’t named a new senior EP of “GMA” to replace Corn…

What about Nexstar?

After he departed ABC News, Corn joined Nexstar’s fledgling “NewsNation” as the head of news. The network is not commenting on the allegations against him. A spokesperson told me, “We have no comment on anything that may or may not have happened prior to Mr. Corn’s employment with Nexstar…”

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