Sex probe led to Steve McPherson's ABC exit

7:32 PM PST 07/28/2010 by Kim Masters, AP

THR EXCLUSIVE: Sources: Exec was target of investigation

Steve McPherson resigned from ABC as the company conducted an internal sexual harassment investigation of the executive, according to an informed source.

ABC did not respond to repeated requests for comment, though ABC pointedly did not deny that allegations of inappropriate conduct were involved.

McPherson's attorney, Tom Hoberman, issued a statement Wednesday: "Upon Steve McPherson returning to work from his vacation on Monday, he made a voluntary decision to resign, and ABC accepted his resignation. It is not uncommon for high-level executives to be the subject of gossip and innuendo. That would include rumors of internal situations that can easily be misinterpreted or misrepresented. Seems like it goes with the territory, and there is nothing further to discuss."

McPherson, who ran ABC's entertainment department for the past six years and its sister studio since last year, resigned abruptly Tuesday, days before ABC will present its fall programming to television critics.

A source said multiple harassment complaints were made involving the entertainment chief and that the company had been conducting a formal investigation into his behavior for the three weeks leading up to his resignation.

Sources said the alleged incidents involved several women, including some executives and on-air talent. The inquiry expanded to include email. A source said an incident at a company retreat, witnessed by more than one staffer, was also part of the inquiry.

In response to the requests for comment, ABC reissued its statement from Tuesday about McPherson's departure: "Steve McPherson today submitted his resignation as President, ABC Entertainment Group, and the Company accepted. Mr. McPherson said, 'I want to thank the wonderful team of individuals who have worked with me throughout my time here and wish them nothing but the best.' A replacement for Mr. McPherson will be announced shortly."
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