First day of a very slow holiday week, the other shoe dropped on ABC News’ embarrassing Brian Ross situation. Ross announced today he and fellow investigative reporter Rhonda Schwartz are leaving the news operation after a quarter of a century.
The news presumably surprised no one. Back in December, ABC News suspended Ross for a month without pay, and demoted him, over his botched report on former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Ross, who had been Chief Investigative Correspondent for the network, reported that Flynn would testify that President Donald Trump ordered him to contact the Russians about foreign policy before Trump was elected.
In a statement issued today, Ross and Schwartz said, “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.”
“We leave with enormous gratitude for all those who supported us and helped build the industry’s most robust and honored investigative unit,” the two journalists said in their statement. “It is a point of great pride to see the soaring careers of so many of the talented and dedicated people who worked with us in producing hundreds of ground-breaking investigative reports that empowered the disenfranchised, exposed corruption and helped make our society a better place.”
“While we are signing off from ABC News, we are hardly leaving investigative journalism,” Ross and Schwartz continued in their statement, adding, “There is much more to do.”
ABC News Chief James Goldston, meanwhile, sent a pro forma memo to staff:
After more than two decades at ABC News, Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz have decided to leave the company.
In their long careers here, Brian, Rhonda and their team have been recognized with nearly every prestigious award in our business – an impressive tally of 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.
They’ve exposed government corruption at every level, international human rights abuses and fraud, uncovered dangerous working conditions, sexual abuse cover-ups and dishonest business practices. Their work has led repeatedly to real changes in policy in the U.S. and around the world. They broke numerous stories following 9/11 about the government investigation of the attacks, from the identification of the terrorists to secret CIA prisons. 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.
Please join me in thanking Brian and Rhonda for their tireless work at ABC News. They asked me to share the note below with all of you. We wish them well in their next chapter.
(“The note below” was their statement, above.)
Back in December, Ross weighed in on his suspension, hours after its announcement, saying, “My job is to hold people accountable and that’s why I agree with being held accountable myself.”
To correct Ross’s original report, ABC issued a “clarification,” admitting Trump’s directive came after his election, not before. Ross also had appeared on ABC’s World News Tonight to admit his error.
ABC News said back then that the Ross report “had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process. 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.”
Trump had tweeted a victory lap when Ross was suspended, saying, “Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the Russia, Russia, Russia Witch Hunt. More Networks and ‘papers’ should do the same with their Fake News!”
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