ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is getting a long Christmas vacation and perhaps an unexpected or unplanned one. The network has suspended Ross for four weeks with no pay for airing a false story yesterday morning that candidate Donald Trump directed Gen. Michael Flynn to contact the Russians and that Flynn would testify to that effect.
The report, which was based on just one anonymous source and later walked back, caused the stock market to tank based on fears of a Trump impeachment. It also prompted much rejoicing among Trump foes while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 300-plus points.
About seven hours later, ABC News came out with a so-called clarification that the contact occurred when Trump was already the president-elect, which is a big difference. The form of post-election outreach is customary in international diplomacy and was routine in prior incoming administrations as well.
From the standpoint of Trump supporters, the false report is another example of the mainstream media breathlessly rushing to publish anything that will make the president look bad or undermine his agenda without engaging in the appropriate due diligence. Many also see the suspension during the holiday season when highly paid journalists take time off anyway as a just a slap on the wrist.
In a statement about the Brian Ross suspension, ABC News expressed regret and apologized for what it described as a “serious error.” The network admitted that the story failed to undergo full vetting in its editorial process, resulting in Brian Ross being sent home.
“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.”
You might recall that Brian Ross is the same reporter who claimed the gunman in the July 2012 Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting was a member of the Tea Party, an allegation which proved to be completely false.
Yesterday in federal court, Gen. Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador after the election, not before. Flynn served as President Trump’s national security adviser for approximately three weeks.
According to CNN, ABC News employees view the Ross report as a “major embarrassment” that reinforces the perception that the mainstream media promulgates fake news. Ross has worked for ABC News for about 23 years.
As the Brian Ross suspension is still developing, please check back for updates.
Update: President Trump has weighed in on the Brian Ross suspension.