In a memo from ABC News President James Goldston Monday, the network announced that the 20-years-plus tenure of investigative reporter Brian Ross is coming to an end. Variety reports that Rhonda Schwartz, chief investigative producer for Ross’ team, is also leaving the network. Goldston’s memo praised their careers, saying “Over the years they have built a team of the best investigative journalists in our industry, and they leave behind an outstanding group that will continue to break stories for many years to come.” An exact date for their departure was not provided.
Ross’ career with ABC News took a sharp turn in December on the heels of a false report he made on the air. He stated that Donald Trump had told Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials during his 2016 campaign. The network quickly clarified during World News Tonight that Trump’s instruction to Flynn happened after he had been elected, but not quick enough to avoid a 300-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and tens of thousands of retweets of a tweet about Ross’ statement. The network also admitted that Ross’ report did not meet their internal standards and was not appropriately vetted before going to air.
The reporter was suspended without pay for four weeks as a result of his false report, and upon his return was assigned to Lincoln Square Productions, a division of ABC News that has produced shows like What Would You Do? and Countdown to the Emmys Red Carpet Live. He was forbidden from reporting on President Trump or the Russia investigation and from appearing on air. Prior to that, 69-year-old Ross had covered wars, politics, scandals, terrorism, and more for the network. He had made previous false claims in his reporting according to the New York Times including his 2012 claim that the mass killer in Aurora, Colorado, was a member of the Tea Party and a claim during the Iraq war that an Iraqi general had been killed.
Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz issued a statement Monday that read,
“After a great run of 24 years, we have decided to pack up and move on from ABC News, an organization that has meant so much to us. While we are signing off from ABC News, we are hardly leaving investigative journalism. There is much more to do.”
During their years together at ABC, the two won multiple awards for their work, including “four George Polk awards, four Peabody awards, four duPonts, five Murrows, 17 News and Documentary Emmys and the Harvard Goldsmith Prize, in 2014, for the single best investigative report in print or broadcast.” Among their most notable work was a 2011 report on sexual assault in the Peace Corps that prompted the creation of a federal law that protects whistleblowers and victims in that organization. Another story from Ross and Schwartz, the one that earned them the Harvard Goldsmith Prize, was about coal miners who were dying from black lung disease but were denied benefits by their employers.