NEW YORK – Suspended ABC News reporter Brian Ross will no longer cover stories involving President Donald Trump following his erroneous report last Friday on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The network on Tuesday confirmed the order by ABC News President James Goldston, who expressed his anger over the error on an internal phone call that was leaked to CNN. ABC declined to make Goldston available for an interview on Tuesday.
Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay over the weekend. He had reported incorrectly that Trump, when he was still a candidate for president, had told Flynn to make contact with the Russians. That would have been a big development in the ongoing investigation over whether the Trump campaign worked with the Russians to influence the election.
Instead, Ross later corrected his story, based on an unnamed source, to say that Trump’s instructions came when he was president-elect, not a candidate.
It was immediately seized upon by Trump as an example of “fake news,” even with a suggestion that the false report was a factor in Friday’s stock market tumble. Trump tweeted on Sunday that anyone who lost money in the stock market on Friday should consider suing ABC for damages.
In the staff call reported by CNN, Goldston said he didn’t think he had ever felt more rage, disappointment and frustration as he did in the aftermath of the botched report.
“I don’t even know how many times we’ve talked about this, how many times we have talked about the need to get it right,” he said. “That how we have to be right and not first. About how in this particular moment, with the stakes as high as these stakes are right now, we cannot afford to get it wrong.”
He also expressed frustration about why it took the network several hours to correct the report. ABC did not dispute CNN’s reporting about Goldston’s comments.
The mistake came at a time that the impact of Trump’s attacks on the media is becoming clear. The Poynter Institute this week, based on a survey taken in early November, said that 44 percent of Americans believe that the media fabricates stories about Trump more than once in a while. Roughly three-quarters of Republicans believe this, Poynter said.
The survey also found that 31 percent of Americans agree with the president that the media are “the enemy of the people.” Among Trump supporters, 63 percent agree with that conclusion, Poynter said.
Journalist Sally Quinn, while promoting a documentary on her late husband, former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, spoke Friday roughly around the time Ross was making his mistake about the pressure journalists are under now.
“Everyone has to be more careful, and every story has to be vetted more than ever before,” she said. “If one person makes a mistake it makes us all look bad. We all get tainted.”
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