About Time: ABC Suspends Ross Without Pay for Monumentally False Scoop on Flynn

Early Saturday night, ABC suspended chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross for only four weeks without pay for the latest and most egregious error of the journalist’s career, falsely claiming on Friday that candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials. In reality, Trump had only done so after the election.

Senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega read almost the entire statement about Ross’s “incorrect reporting” while anchoring Saturday’s World News Tonight, but ignored the sentence referring to Ross’s suspension.

 

 

As for the jaw-dropping statement itself, ABC began by expressing how “[w]e deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday” and that Ross’s scoop delivered at 10:59 a.m. Eastern “had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process.”

Folks, you can’t get much worse in journalism other than fabricating (like Brian Williams) or plagiarizing (like Fareed Zakaria). For an industry with their credibility going down the tubes, such an error isn’t small or stupid. 

Rather, Ross’s latest blunder sets back media literacy even further and was arguably the lynchpin behind a massive dip in the stock market immediately after his story.

Without revealing a timeline, ABC added: “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.”

The statement concluded as such with a nod to the importance of credibility: 

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.

Despite our differences of opinion and view of the media, it's important to credit CNN’s Oliver Darcy for his reporting over the last 24 hours. Darcy set this process in motion as he inquired with ABC early Friday night why Ross’s bombshell claim had not been uploaded to ABC News’s website. Upon his inquiry, ABC pathetically admitted that Ross would issue a “clarification” during World News Tonight

This label was roundly criticized and thus ABC dug an even deeper hole by changing Ross’s error to a “correction” (which he admitted as such on Saturday’s Good Morning America). 

Ross also reported on Friday that Flynn is willing to testify against President Trump, the First Family, and the White House along with how Flynn decided to cooperate in the Mueller probe due to the crushing legal bills. Those parts remained in place, but one major error is too many and especially for an industry in which falsification is its most cardinal sin.

Readers may recall how this wasn’t Ross’s first blunder. When the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting occurred, Ross falsely asserted that the gunman was a “Jim Holmes” who belonged to a Colorado Tea Party group. That was almost immediately debunked as the shooting was carried out by another James Holmes who had nothing to do with the Tea Party.

Ross was also behind the false reports in 2001 that linked Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks in the United States that paralyzed the country following the September 11 attacks.

At the end of the day, a suspension is appropriate, but these three errors and still being able to keep your job as the chief investigative correspondent for one of the “big three” networks? Mark it down as yet another reason why people dislike the media.

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Here’s the relevant transcript from ABC’s World News Tonight on December 2:

ABC’s World News Tonight
December 2, 2017
6:36 p.m. Eastern

CECILIA VEGA: We have an update on our incorrect reporting that aired yesterday during a special report. ABC News has released this statement: “We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday. 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.” Again, that was a statement issued by ABC News tonight. 

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Here’s the full ABC News statement from December 2:

ABC News Statement
December 2, 2017
5:40 p.m. Eastern

We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday. 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.


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CyberAlerts Russia Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe ABC Good Morning America World News Tonight Fake News Video Mike Flynn Brian Ross Cecilia Vega Donald Trump
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