Reporter suspended over erroneous story that Trump ordered Flynn Russia contact

A US investigative reporter has been suspended by ABC News for his erroneous report that Donald Trump directed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians.

Brian Ross, citing an unnamed confidant of Flynn, the former national security adviser, had reported on Friday that during the presidential campaign Mr Trump had directed Flynn to make the approach.

That would have been an explosive development in the ongoing Russia investigation, but hours later, Mr Ross clarified that report on the evening news, saying that his source now said that Mr Trump had done so as president-elect, after the election.

At that point, he said, Mr Trump had asked Flynn to contact the Russians about issues including working together to fight ISIS.

The news of Mr Ross's suspension for four weeks without pay brought reaction from Mr Trump, who tweeted: "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!"

As for Mr Ross, who is ABC's chief investigative correspondent, he tweeted: "My job is to hold people accountable and that's why I agree with being held accountable myself."

ABC was widely criticised for merely clarifying and not correcting his report. It issued a correction later in the evening.

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

"The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the special report had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process.

"As a result of our continued reporting over the next several hours ultimately we determined the information was wrong and we corrected the mistake on air and online.

"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."

Mr Ross, 69, joined the network in 1994. He has won a slew of journalism awards, including, according to his ABC bio, six George Polk awards, six Peabody awards and two Emmys, among others.

He also, though, has drawn criticism for previous errors. In just one example, ABC had to apologise in 2012 when Mr Ross reported on "Good Morning America" that James Holmes, the suspect in the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado, might be connected to the tea party, based on a name listed on a web page.

It turned out to be a different "Jim Holmes." Mr Ross was criticised for politicising the story with the error.

Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians.


 

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