ABC News staffer says network retaliated after she filed sexual assault lawsuit

ABC News staffer says network retaliated after she filed sexual assault lawsuit

An ABC News staffer is claiming that the network retaliated against her after she filed a sexual assault lawsuit against her then-boss, Michael Corn, who was the top producer of the network’s marquee show, “Good Morning America.”

Kristyn Crawford, a producer on the show, sued Corn, who allegedly sexually assaulted her, and ABC, claiming the network “swept” that incident and other complaints against the high-powered producer “under the rug” when it was brought to their attention.

Now, in an updated version of the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Crawford claims that after she formally registered her complaint at ABC, the network didn’t renew her three-year contract, offering instead a six-month extension with no raise.

In her lawsuit, Crawford, 31, a producer for anchor George Stephanopoulos on “GMA,” says the show’s then-senior executive producer Michael Corn sexually assaulted her after a work party when he was drunk during a reporting trip to Los Angeles in 2015.

The suit, which is filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, also alleges that former ABC News producer Jill McClain was sexually assaulted by Corn when the two worked together roughly a decade ago. McClain, who left ABC in 2013, isn’t a plaintiff in the suit but is supporting Crawford’s case, the complaint said.

Michael Corn, who had been a top producer of ABC News’s ‘Good Morning America,
Michael Corn, who had been a top producer of ABC News’s ‘Good Morning America,’ left the company in April amid sexual assault complaints.

Corn, who exited ABC News in April, has denied any wrongdoing. ABC News did not respond to requests seeking comment on Crawford’s allegation that the network retaliated against her.

The lawsuit also claims that ABC forced Corn, who’d managed “GMA” since 2014, to resign, however “keeping in line with ABC’s culture of sweeping sexual assault under the rug to protect its brand, ABC did not publicly acknowledge Corn’s malfeasance.”

This includes several complaints over roughly a decade by women at ABC, as well as Crawford’s description of the 2015 incident in LA that started in an Uber after a work party with the team covering the Oscars, according to the suit.

Despite her efforts to “pull away,” a drunken Corn pulled her head into his chest and began kissing her and rubbing her legs while in an Uber together. During the ride, he “grabbed Crawford’s hand and told her that he wanted to be able to help her with her career,” the court papers said.

ROBIN ROBERTS, MICHAEL CORN, DIANE SAWYER, CHARLES GIBSON
Robin Roberts (left) celebrates 30 years on “GMA” with Michael Corn (second from left), Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson (right).
ABC via Getty Images

When they got to the hotel, Corn allegedly pretended to lose his room key in a “devious ploy” to get into Crawford’s room. In an attempt to divert him from her room, Crawford  accompanied Corn to his room instead, according to the suit.

She sat on the corner of his bed at his invitation, the suit said, adding that he “pulled her down onto the bed and pulled her head onto his chest” before he kissed the top of her head, petted her hair and stroked her arm.

She managed to go back to her room, but her boss would later barge into her room where she begged him to leave, which he eventually did, the suit said. 

ABC learned of the alleged assault in 2017, but court papers claim the network “did nothing to protect plaintiff or removed Corn from his position of power.” The suit said Stephanopoulos was told by a third party about the alleged incident and informed ABC management. According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the lawsuit, Stephanopoulos has said the suit’s depiction of his actions is accurate.

Crawford said in the suit that she did not make a “formal complaint” to ABC until earlier this year in February. According to the updated lawsuit, that complaint came six months before the end of her three-year contract as a producer for “GMA” anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The network traditionally approaches employees a few months before a contract expires to renegotiate a new contract, the lawsuit said. But in this instance, ABC News didn’t contact Crawford until July, “approximately four months after Crawford made a formal complaint, and just one month before her 2018 contract was set to expire,” court papers said.

President of ABC News Kimberly Godwin.
Newly-minted ABC News president Kim Godwin has called for an independent probe into how the network handled complaints made against Michael Corn.
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Instead of offering the producer another three-year contract, ABC “merely offered a six-month extension and did not offer a nominal salary increase,” the suit said. Crawford is currently working at ABC News without a contract.

Sources told The Journal that after Crawford and McClain, who was allegedly assaulted by Corn on an airplane in 2010 and in a London hotel room in 2011, made complaints to ABC, the network conducted an investigation and pushed him out. The newspaper also reported that also held “unsuccessful mediation” talks with the two women in June.

When news of the lawsuit came out in August, newly-hired ABC News president Kim Godwin called for an independent investigation into how the network handled the allegations, but CNN recently reported that her call for a probe have “infuriated” her bosses at ABC-parent Disney.

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