Fmr. top producer of ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ accused of sexual assault in lawsuit

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An ABC News staffer filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Michael Corn, the former top producer of "Good Morning America," alleging he sexually assaulted her and fostered a toxic work environment.

Kirstyn Crawford, a producer on the morning show, alleged that Mr. Corn assaulted her in 2015 during a business trip to Los Angeles, according to the suit, which was filed in New York state court.

The suit also alleges that former ABC News producer Jill McClain was sexually assaulted by Mr. Corn when the two worked at ABC’s "World News Tonight" roughly a decade ago. Ms. McClain isn’t a plaintiff in the suit, but is supporting Ms. Crawford’s case, according to the complaint.

The suit also names ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co. DIS -0.29% , as a defendant, alleging the company received complaints about Mr. Corn’s conduct from several women, going back roughly a decade, but failed to take disciplinary action.

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ABC officials learned of Ms. Crawford’s allegations in 2017, but only launched an investigation into Mr. Corn’s conduct after Ms. Crawford and Ms. McClain filed formal complaints to the company in February of this year, according to the suit.

Mr. Corn left the company in April. Neither ABC nor Mr. Corn provided a reason for his exit. In May, Mr. Corn joined Nexstar Media Group Inc. NXST -0.15% as president of NewsNation, the three-hour evening national newscast that airs on the WGN-TV cable channel.

Mr. Corn and his lawyer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Representatives for ABC News, Disney and Nexstar didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Corn, as senior executive producer of "Good Morning America," was one of the most powerful people in television news. The show is the top-rated morning news program and the biggest generator of advertising revenue for ABC News. Mr. Corn had been executive producer of "GMA" since 2014.

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Prior to that, he was executive producer of "World News Tonight" when Diane Sawyer was anchor. At the time of his departure from the network, Mr. Corn was a member of the Office of the President of ABC News.

Ms. Crawford, who is a producer for "Good Morning America" co-anchor George Stephanopoulos, is seeking unspecified damages, citing emotional and physical distress, among other fallout from the alleged incident.

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In the suit, she alleges that an inebriated Mr. Corn assaulted her during a trip to Los Angeles in 2015 to cover the Academy Awards. During an Uber ride back to their hotel after a party, Mr. Corn forcibly touched Ms. Crawford, kissing her head and rubbing her legs, telling her he wanted to help her with her career, according to the suit. As a producer, Ms. Crawford worked under Mr. Corn.

When they got to the hotel, Ms. Crawford brought Mr. Corn Advil in his room, at his request, according to the suit. He asked her to sit on the bed, which she did because she feared if she said no he would "lash out" at her, the suit says. Mr. Corn grabbed her arm and pulled her head onto his chest and began kissing the top of her head, the suit says, adding that she was able to pull away after a few minutes and left for her room.

In November 2017, Mr. Stephanopoulos became aware through a third party of the alleged assault and notified Tanya Menton, an ABC lawyer who handles litigation and employee relations; Derek Medina, a senior executive at "Good Morning America"; and Heather Riley, then a publicist for the program, according to the suit.

Ms. Crawford decided not to speak with Ms. Menton after a conversation with Ms. Riley, who told her reporting the assault and harassment might get "messy," according to the suit. Ms. Crawford feared a formal complaint would "do more harm than good or even result in losing her job," the suit says.

Ms. Menton, Mr. Medina and Ms. Riley, who is now a vice president of crisis management communications and strategic initiatives for ABC News, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Stephanopoulos declined to comment.

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Although Ms. Crawford didn’t file a formal complaint at the time, under Disney’s policies an investigation should have been launched once executives were notified of the alleged incident, according to the suit.

According to the suit, Mr. Corn assaulted Ms. McClain on a red-eye flight in 2010, groping her and rubbing her vagina through her jeans. Ms. McClain turned her body toward the window and pretended to fall asleep, the suit says. During a separate trip to London in 2011, an intoxicated Mr. Corn forced his way into her hotel room, pushed her onto the bed and "grabbed the top of McClain’s jumpsuit as well as her bra and pulled them both down," fondling her breasts, according to the suit. Ms. McClain pushed Mr. Corn off and yelled at him to leave, which he did, the suit says.

Ms. McClain didn’t file a complaint about the alleged incidents at the time. Years later, on New Year’s Eve 2020, Ms. McClain was talking with Ms. Sawyer, with whom she had worked on "World News Tonight," and she detailed the alleged encounters, according to the suit. Ms. Sawyer told Ms. McClain that she should report the alleged incidents to ABC and also told Ms. Menton, the ABC attorney, of Ms. McClain’s allegations, according to the suit.

Ms. Sawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Ms. Crawford and Ms. McClain connected with each other in January of this year and later filed their complaints, triggering ABC’s probe, according to the suit.

The suit says several other women at ABC reported complaints about Mr. Corn’s behavior to the network, including allegations ranging from bullying to sexual harassment. The suit doesn’t name the other alleged victims.

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