ABC News suspends Brian Ross over 'serious error' in Michael Flynn story

Frederick Owens
December 7, 2017

"We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday", the network said in a statement Saturday.

The network suspended their chief investigative correspondent for four weeks without pay after he falsely reported last week that Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was going to testify that then-candidate Donald Trump had ordered him to contact Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 election.

ABC News later issued a "clarification" that said Trump had, in fact, issued the directive to Flynn after he was elected president. Ross said more than seven hours later on "World News Tonight" that his information was actually that Flynn was prepared to testify Trump made the request as president-elect.

"It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience - these are our core principles", the statement added.

"It's scary. It's real", Hannity said leading up to news of Ross's error.

During Friday's edition of "World News Tonight", Ross walked back his report, telling viewers that the source who had provided the initial information for his story later told him that it was as president-elect, not as a candidate, that Trump asked Flynn to contact Russians. Then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted Saturday that he "explicitly told ABC News not to go with the anthrax story because it was wrong".

CNN provided the quotes from the recording included in this article to an ABC News spokesperson, who did not deny that they were authentic.

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Ross' incorrect report prompted a dramatic reaction in the financial markets, and the Dow fell more than 350 points. Later, the clarification was amended to a correction.

Ross tweeted about his suspension late Saturday, saying, "My job is to hold people accountable and that's why I agree with being held accountable myself".

During ABC News' morning editorial call Monday, audio of which was obtained by CNN, Goldston excoriated his staff for the error.

Friday's fumble was another in a series of black marks for Ross, who has been at ABC News since 1994 after spending almost two decades at NBC.

"It makes me cringe", echoed another.

Hannity wasn't the only one unhappy with Ross's mistake, which came after Flynn pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump team colluded with Russian Federation to influence the presidential election. "It makes me sick to my stomach". This isn't the first time Ross has got a face full of buckshot for reporting shoddy leads. Hannity also called out Ross, who was criticized in 2012 for incorrectly alleging that the Aurora, Colorado movie theater attacker was a member of the Tea Party.

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