Many ABC News employees say they are growing frustrated with the company's handling of sexual assault allegations within the organization, with some telling NBC News on Friday that it is undermining the women who made assault and harassment accusations against the former head producer of “Good Morning America.”
NBC News spoke to a dozen current and former employees at ABC News, many of whom said the statement released Wednesday in response to a lawsuit filed against former GMA chief Michael Corn and ABC News was “offensive” and made them question whether they still wanted to work for the network.
“Morale is beyond low,” said one woman who has worked at ABC News for years, who asked not to be named in order to discuss internal matters. “Women are questioning why they are still at ABC because they are all so disgusted. It’s a company they don’t want to work for anymore.”
ABC is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which alleges that the network had received complaints from women about Corn’s alleged abuses going back at least a decade but did nothing to stop him. He is described in the complaint as an "untouchable" whose bad behavior was tolerated because he turned "GMA" into a ratings giant.
The statement issued by ABC News in response to those claims 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.”
The statement was poorly received by some employees who spoke to NBC News. All asked to withhold their names in order to discuss the situation.
"I can't tell you how many women I've heard from who work for ABC News and who are absolutely disgusted that they didn't give the women who accused Corn of sexual assault even a modicum of benefit of a doubt,” said a male staffer, who also asked not to be identified by name.
"It's the #MeToo era, and in the eyes of many here, ABC put out a statement that questioned the veracity of a woman who made an accusation against somebody ABC already fired. They read that statement from ABC News as an attack on a woman who is still coming to work here every day."
Kirstyn Crawford, who remains a producer on the morning show, claimed in a lawsuit filed this week in New York state court that Corn assaulted her in 2015 during a business trip to cover the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The lawsuit also alleges that Corn assaulted former ABC News producer Jill McClain in 2010 and 2011 on two separate business trips. McClain is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Corn, who left ABC News abruptly in April just before current ABC News President Kim Godwin took over and now works for Nexstar's NewsNation, adamantly denies the allegations.
There was no immediate response from ABC News to a request for comment about the disgruntled staffers.
Godwin, during a call with angry staffers on Thursday, was peppered with questions about the ABC News statement, several current employees told NBC News. She was also asked whether it was true, as the lawsuit alleges, that ABC News brass “looked the other way” rather than confront Corn about his allegedly abusive behavior.
Godwin was also asked whether "GMA" host George Stephanopoulos could have done more to help Crawford. According to the complaint, Stephanopoulos urged Crawford to report the alleged assault and himself told other executives about the allegation. Heather Riley, then senior director of publicity for GMA, also knew about the allegation.
Riley, who is now ABC’s vice president of crisis management and whose job includes looking into sex assault accusations, allegedly warned Crawford that filing a complaint against Corn could get “messy,” according to the lawsuit.
Stephanopoulos and Riley did not respond to requests for comment made through ABC News spokeswoman Charissa Gilmore.
ABC News employees also said Godwin also vowed during the staff call that ABC would launch an independent investigation into how the network handled the allegations against Corn.
“People are understandably pissed and embarrassed that they had to read about this in a newspaper,” said the male staffer, referring to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.