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Embattled ABC News president Kim Godwin told staffers she’s ‘still in charge’ after effective demotion: sources

Good Morning America anchors, Kim Godwin and Debra OConnell
Good Morning America anchors, Kim Godwin and Debra OConnell

Embattled ABC News president Kim Godwin told staffers shortly after she was effectively demoted last month that “This is my network” and “I’m still in charge” — even as rumors swirl that she and her loyal lieutenants are headed for the chopping block, The Post has learned.

In the days following the promotion of Debra OConnell to the new role of president of the Disney-owned news group and networks — a surprise shuffle disclosed Feb. 14 by top Disney executive Dana Walden — Godwin defiantly insisted on a call with senior leaders at ABC News that she’s still the boss, insiders said.

“Kim said on the call: ‘I’m still in charge. This is my network. And if anyone has a problem with that, you can come see me,’” said a source, who recalled the exec’s words. “There was dead silence after that.”

‘I’m still in charge,” Kim Godwin said, according to a source who recalled the exec’s words. “This is my network. And if anyone has a problem with that, you can come see me.” Getty Images,
‘I’m still in charge,” Kim Godwin said, according to a source who recalled the exec’s words. “This is my network. And if anyone has a problem with that, you can come see me.” Getty Images,

An ABC spokesperson said: “It is not true. She didn’t say that.” The rep declined to comment further.

A second source told The Post that the first source’s characterization of Godwin’s quote was correct.

Godwin did not return requests for comment for this article.

Godwin’s “delusional” comments stunned staffers, who had quietly cheered OConnell’s arrival as it signaled that big cultural changes were on the horizon —  including the potential cleanup of the network’s “culture of fear,” according to a source close to the company.

“People think Debra is going to get rid of Godwin’s top lieutenants — her ‘yes people,’” the source said.

With the network president rendered essentially powerless, a source close to OConnell said she may get rid of Jose Andino, the vice president of the office of the president & process management, who followed Godwin from CBS News. Two other Godwin acolytes — executive editor and senior vice president Stacia Deshishku and executive vice president Derek Medina — could also be headed for the exit, according to the source.

“We don’t comment on rumors,” said an ABC rep.

“Jose is widely despised across the board,” said an ABC News source. “He walks around saying, ‘I work for Kim, not ABC News.’”

Godwin’s “delusional” comments stunned staffers, who had quietly cheered Debra OConnell’s arrival as it signaled that big cultural changes were on the horizon Getty Images for The Alliance for Women in Media
Godwin’s “delusional” comments stunned staffers, who had quietly cheered Debra OConnell’s arrival as it signaled that big cultural changes were on the horizon Getty Images for The Alliance for Women in Media

The source said the “gossipy” exec also was a “henchman” dictating to Godwin who should get fired from the network, which is home to “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight with David Muir.”

His close relationship with Godwin began at CBS News where the exec helped Godwin compile a list of HR grievances against former CBS News president Susan Zirinsky – whose job Godwin was gunning for at the time, as reported by The Post and other outlets.

At ABC News, Andino’s shenanigans — including his reputation for gossip and cozy relationship with Godwin — have continued and sparked anger among the rank-and-file who griped about his inflated salary. One source speculated that the exec is making north of $500,000, with another putting his total compensation, including salary, closer to $1 million.

A source close to the network called the estimates “ridiculous” but declined to provide a more accurate figure.

Andino did not respond to requests for comment.

Indeed, Godwin’s self-promotional, hands-off approach to running the Disney-owned network has empowered her coterie to “settle scores,” a source said.

“This is not true. Kim is working to create a culture of respect,” an ABC spokesperson said.

ABC is home to “The View,” “Good Morning America,” above, and “World News Tonight with David Muir.” ABC
ABC is home to “The View,” “Good Morning America,” above, and “World News Tonight with David Muir.” ABC

The person pointed to a recent power move that Godwin and Deshishku, a former deputy Washington DC bureau chief, tried to pull in her old stomping ground.

Sources said Godwin has tried to push out other highl-level executives whose loyalty she has questioned — including the Washington bureau chief who had been vocal internally about Godwin’s mismanagement — but that Disney corporate got involved to nix those plans.

ABC declined to comment. A source close to the network said the bureau chief is “an important part of ABC News and is still running the DC bureau.”

As previously reported by The Post, the network’s culture had “been run like a police state” with staffers fearing that they were being monitored by their boss and her deputies. Some staffers told The Post they were afraid of being “overheard” in the hallways and often would meet in back stairwells to talk.

Although Godwin’s employment contract has recently been renewed for three more years, most insiders told The Post last month that the exec’s days are likely numbered under OConnell, who has hit the ground running.

Unlike Godwin, OConnell has taken a very hands-on approach, showing up on the set of shows like “Good Morning America” and “The View,” in order to bolster staffers’ spirits.

The contrast hasn’t been lost on the rank-and-file who griped that “Kim was often unreachable on the weekends.”

Godwin’s self-promotional, hands-off approach to running the Disney-owned network has empowered her coterie to “settle scores,” a source said. Disney CEO Bob Iger, above. Getty Images
Godwin’s self-promotional, hands-off approach to running the Disney-owned network has empowered her coterie to “settle scores,” a source said. Disney CEO Bob Iger, above. Getty Images

An ABC rep said: “This is not true. She is always reachable.”

In recent weeks, Godwin has made an effort, showing up on set and getting more involved with the editorial process.

Last week, the exec attempted to open a conversation among staffers about how to cover Donald Trump and recent remarks he made at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia, SC.

The Republican presidential front-runner claimed “black people like me” because of his multiple indictments with Godwin labeling his comments “as racist as they come.”

While Godwin’s remarks angered some staffers, Puck News reported that insiders viewed the comments as the exec’s “latest misstep” as “an unfortunate symptom of her response to the restructuring.”

“It’s too little too late,” said a former network exec. “ABC News is a cutthroat place. Even though Disney renewed Kim’s contract, they’ll pay her out before it’s up. She’s toast.”