With as much face to lose as anyone, Walt Disney, the family-oriented entertainment company that operates the Web's leading destination for children, formally reacted to the arrest of Patrick Naughton by distancing itself and its properties from the high-tech executive.
The FBI arrested Naughton late Thursday on charges in connection with using Internet chat and email to solicit a minor. As executive vice president for products, Naughton oversaw the software development efforts for Infoseek and the GO Network portal site. However, Disney spokeswoman Rebecca Anderson stressed Monday that Naughton asserted no operational control over Disney Online, ESPN, ABCNews.com or ABC.com, despite the fact they are part of the Infoseek-operated GO Network.
"Patrick's responsibilities did not touch on the content," she said. All those sites are managed by executives who work directly for Disney. Anderson also said Disney does not expect the incident to affect the company's announced plans to acquire the 57 percent of Infoseek it does not already own.
Meanwhile, Infoseek officials were remaining mum, except to issue a brief, formal statement. "We are shocked and disturbed by the arrest of Patrick Naughton," it said. "Mr Naughton is no longer an employee of Infoseek. As this is a pending investigation, there are no further details available at this time. We want to be clear that behavior of this nature is inappropriate and unacceptable by Infoseek and GO Network."
Naughton was arrested on Friday and released after posting a $100,000 appearance bond; he has been formally charged with interstate travel with the intention of having sex with a minor. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. He faces arraignment 12 October.