As NewsBusters’ Curtis Houck reported yesterday, longtime ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross is leaving the network seven months after he notoriously tanked the stock market with a false on-air report that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn would testify against the President.
But that wasn’t the first, or second, or even third time that Ross’s investigative scoops have blown up on ABC News. Last December, Brent Bozell and Tim Graham recounted five other embarrassing blunders for their syndicated column, appropriately headlined, “Brian Ross Should Be Fired.” Let’s review:
■ In 2001, Ross claimed the anthrax used in deadly attacks after 9/11 in Washington and New York was coated with bentonite, a chemical compound found only in biological weapons made by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen in Iraq. Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer remembers: “I explicitly told ABC News not to go with the anthrax story because it was wrong. Brian Ross went with it anyway — and one week later issued a murky, hard to understand correction.”
■ In the first month of the Iraq War in 2003, Ross reported Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan Al Majid (or “Chemical Ali”) had been killed. Several media outlets forwarded that report. Six months later, U.S. officials announced they had him in custody.
■ In 2006, Ross claimed Pakistani officials had arrested Matiur Rehman, an al-Qaeda explosives expert who kept an “official” list of terrorist recruits, and could lead to Osama bin Laden. Pakistanis denounced the report as ‘fictitious.” ABC consultant Alexis Debat had warned ABC it was not true a day after the report had initially been broadcast.
■ Also in 2006, Ross breathlessly relayed that then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert was under FBI investigation for bribery in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. “Justice Department officials describe the 64-year-old Illinois Republican as very much in the mix of the corruption investigation.” This prompted the Justice Department to deny there was any federal probe of Hastert, who demanded a retraction and threatened to sue ABC.
■ Then in 2012, Ross went on the air after the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, and sloppily connected the gunman to the Tea Party (which, of course, had nothing to do with the tragedy). Ross smeared: “There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year.” Ross hastily added: “Now, we don’t know if this the same Jim Holmes.” It wasn’t. Hours later, he apologized on Twitter.
■ In 2017, Ross finally went too far with this claim, during an ABC News Special Report on Flynn: “He has promised full cooperation to the Mueller team. He’s prepared to testify we are told by a confidante, against President Trump, against members of the Trump family and others in the White House.” That wasn’t true, either.
After that blunder, ABC apologized and suspended Ross for four weeks without pay. He returned in January to work for the network’s outside production house, Lincoln Square Productions. Now, six months later, Brian Ross is gone for good.