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ABC News parts ways with investigative reporter Brian Ross

Brian Ross
Veteran investigative correspondent Brian Ross, appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2015, announced he is leaving the network after 24 years.
(Fred Lee / Associated Press)

Veteran investigative reporter Brian Ross, suspended by ABC News in December for an erroneous report on former national security advisor Michael Flynn, announced Monday that he is leaving the network.

Ross, 69, had been with ABC News since 1994, and was long one of the network’s highest-profile correspondents. He was suspended for four weeks without pay after the network had to correct his false Dec. 1 report. The story said Flynn was prepared to testify that President Trump had directed him to make contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign when he was still a candidate.

Ross later clarified the piece, citing that his source said the contact was made after Trump won the election.

ABC News also issued an apology, saying the story had not been fully vetted through its editorial process. The mistake became fodder for Trump’s frequent attacks on the media outlets he describes as “fake news.”

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When Ross returned from his suspension, he worked in the ABC News long-form program production unit and no longer participated in any live breaking news coverage.

Ross is leaving with his longtime collaborator Rhonda Schwartz, who was chief of investigative projects.

“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,” Ross said in an email to his colleagues. “We leave with enormous gratitude for all those who supported us and helped build the industry’s most robust and honored investigative unit. 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 groundbreaking investigative reports that empowered the disenfranchised, exposed corruption and helped make our society a better place.”

Ross added that, “while we are signing off from ABC News, we are hardly leaving investigative journalism. There is much more to do.”

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During his tenure at ABC News, Ross established a reputation for being a hard-charging, deeply sourced reporter, winning numerous journalism prizes over his career. The team broke several stories about the government investigation of the 9/11 attacks, including identification of the terrorists and the existence of secret CIA prisons.

Ross’ aggressive approach also caused controversy within the company.

In 1998, Ross and Schwartz were at work on a segment that examined health and safety issues at ABC parent Walt Disney Co.’s Orlando, Fla., theme park, Disney World. The report never made it to air, raising questions as to whether there was corporate pressure to quash it. (ABC News said at the time that there was not.)

ABC News was also criticized when Ross suggested that James Holmes, the gunman who killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., might be a member connected with the tea party movement. Ross cited a website page for another man with the same name. The shooter had no ties to the political group.

Ross was with NBC News for 20 years before he joined ABC, making him one of the longest tenured network correspondents in the TV business.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


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