Friday, September 24, 2021

Disney Decides Against Indy Probe Of Allegations At ABC News

Michael Corn, Kim Godwin, Kirsten Crawford

Walt Disney Co. has decided to not pursue an independent investigation into how the network handled sexual-assault allegations against the former top producer of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” The Wall Street Journal reports the show’s executive producer told staffers earlier this week.

Simone Swink, the executive producer of “GMA,” said during a staff meeting on Monday that an outside probe into the departure of Michael Corn as senior executive producer of the top-rated morning news program “is not happening at this time,” according to a recording of the meeting.

ABC News President Kim Godwin told staff last month that she requested an independent probe into the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported. The decision not to move forward with an investigation was disclosed to Godwin, Swink and other top ABC staffers in a meeting last Friday held by Peter Rice, who in his role as Disney’s chairman of general entertainment content oversees the news unit, according to the recording.

“Peter said it was beyond his sphere of influence to ask for an outside investigation of the Walt Disney Company,"  Swink told “GMA” staffers in the Monday meeting.

Asked by a staffer whether the network’s handling of allegations against Corn would be investigated internally instead, Swink said that because the company is in the middle of active litigation, “my understanding right now is that nothing is going to be done.”

ABC is a defendant in a lawsuit filed last month that alleged Corn sexually assaulted a current ABC News staffer and a former staffer in separate incidents. Corn has denied wrongdoing and called the allegations by Kirsten Crawford as fabrications.

When Corn was pushed out of the company in April, neither he nor the network provided a reason for his exit. After the lawsuit was filed, some ABC News staffers were angry that they were unaware of the complaints that had been made against Corn before his departure, people inside the network said.

Godwin, who joined ABC News as its president from CBS in May, told staffers on Aug. 26, the day after the lawsuit was filed, that she had asked her superiors for an independent investigation. “We can’t have us investigating us. We need an independent person,” she told the staff, according to a recording of the conference call. “The process has to be independent.”

Godwin also told the unit that she wouldn’t be “sweeping this under the rug.”

Staffers expressed frustration during Monday’s meeting with the decision not to conduct a probe and with Mr. Rice’s reason for not acting.

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