Former Good Morning America Producer Accused of Sexual Assault, Fostering 'Toxic Work Environment'
An ABC News producer has accused Michael Corn, a former top executive producer at Good Morning America, of sexual assault and fostering a toxic work environment.
Kirstyn Crawford, currently a producer for George Stephanopoulos on GMA, filed a lawsuit in New York against Corn on Wednesday, alleging that he sexually assaulted her during an Uber ride and in a hotel room when the pair were on a 2015 work trip to Los Angeles, according to a copy of the suit obtained by PEOPLE.
Crawford further claims that Corn, who now works as the president of Nexstar Media Group's cable network NewsNation, "created and perpetuated a toxic work environment fraught with discrimination against and marginalization of women."
The lawsuit also alleges that Corn was "sexually abusive" towards former ABC News producer Jill McClain when they both worked on World News Tonight in 2010. Though McClain isn't a plaintiff in the suit, she shared her story "in support" of Crawford after having "suffered grievous psychological harm" as a result of Corn's alleged actions, the lawsuit states.
"Both [Crawford] and McClain were traumatized and rendered incapable of reporting the incidents for fear of losing their jobs, since Corn was their supervisor," it says.
Corn denied all the allegations in a statement via his lawyer. "I vehemently deny any allegations that I engaged in improper sexual contact with another woman," the statement said, per The New York Times. He added that he "will be pursuing all available legal remedies against these women and defending myself vigorously."
In addition to his statement, Corn's lawyer, Elizabeth Locke, shared emails with PEOPLE that Crawford sent to him the morning after the alleged 2015 incident that show her speaking about Corn positively.
The emails "demonstrate that these allegations are completely and demonstrably false and they belie any notion that Mr. Corn engaged in any misconduct toward Ms. Crawford," Locke said in a letter sent to Milton Williams, the lawyer representing Crawford and McClain. Locke also advised Williams of his "ethical duty not to file frivolous litigation."
In his own statement shared with PEOPLE, Williams said, "For both Kirstyn, and Jill, who is supporting her, the healing process has begun."
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Crawford also said in the suit that ABC "knew or should have known that Corn had a propensity to sexually harass female colleagues and that he perpetuated a hostile work environment," claiming that the network knew about the alleged 2015 assault as early as 2017 but did not investigate the matter until she and McClain made complaints in February of this year.
According to the lawsuit, Stephanopoulos, 60, told Crawford that he had heard about the alleged assault in November 2017, urged her to report it to the network and disclosed the incident to a senior director of publicity for GMA. Fearing "retaliation" from Corn, however, Crawford did not file a formal report.
The lawsuit claims that because Stephanopoulos had disclosed the assault, the network should have conducted "a meaningful, thorough investigation" into Corn's behavior, regardless of whether or not Crawford reported the incident herself.
In an email to The New York Times, Stephanopoulos said that the account in the lawsuit was accurate.
An ABC spokeswoman disputed Crawford's claims in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
"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," the statement said. "ABC News disputes the claims made against it and will address this matter in court."
Reps for Stephanopoulos and ABC did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.
A day after the lawsuit was filed, WSJ reported that Kim Godwin, the new president of ABC news, called for an independent investigation into how the network handled allegations of sexual assault against Corn during an audio call with staffers.
"We can't have us investigating us. We need an independent person," she said, according to a recording of the call obtained by the outlet. "The process has to be independent."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.