ABC News suspends Brian Ross for erroneous Flynn report
NEW YORK— ABC News on Saturday suspended investigative reporter Brian Ross for four weeks without pay for his erroneous report on Michael Flynn, which it called a “serious error.”
Ross, citing an unnamed confidant of Flynn, the former national security adviser, had reported Friday that during the presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump had directed Flynn to make contact with the Russians.
That would have been an explosive development in the ongoing Russia investigation, but hours later, Ross clarified that report on the evening news, saying that his source now said that Trump had done so as president-elect, after the election. At that point, he said, Trump had asked Flynn to contact the Russians about issues including working together to fight ISIS.
ABC was widely criticized for merely clarifying and not correcting the report. It issued a correction later in the evening.
“We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday,” the network said in a statement Saturday. “The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the special report had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process. As a result of our continued reporting over the next several hours ultimately we determined the information was wrong and we corrected the mistake on air and online.
“It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience — these are our core principles. We fell far short of that yesterday. Effective immediately, Brian Ross will be suspended for four weeks without pay.”
The news brought reaction from Trump, who tweeted: “Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the Russia, Russia, Russia Witch Hunt. More Networks and “papers” should do the same with their Fake News!”
As for Ross, who is ABC’s chief investigative correspondent, he tweeted: “My job is to hold people accountable and that’s why I agree with being held accountable myself.”
Ross, 69, joined the network in 1994. He has won a slew of journalism awards, including, according to his ABC bio, six George Polk awards, six Peabody awards and two Emmys, among others.
He also, though, has drawn criticism for previous errors. In just one example, ABC had to apologize in 2012 when Ross reported on “Good Morning America” that James Holmes, the suspect in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, might be connected to the tea party, based on a name listed on a web page. It turned out to be a different “Jim Holmes.” Ross was criticized for politicizing the story with the error.
Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians.