Saturday, July 21, 2012
IF State-Run ABC had ANY Integrity they would Promptly FIRE Brian Ross.....
Brian Ross of ABC takes heat for another blunder
By DYLAN BYERS | 7/20/12 8:38 PM EDT
In television journalism, few reporters are as controversial as Brian Ross of ABC News.
The investigative correspondent has landed major scoops and won prestigious awards for his reporting on the Peace Corps, Solyndra, and U.S. antiterrorism efforts — to name just a few. And yet, he has also produced more high-level haphazard reporting than perhaps any other reporter on television.
Ross came under attack again Friday when he reported that James Holmes, the suspect of today’s theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., may have connections to the tea party — basing that on a single web page that listed an Aurora-based “Jim Holmes” as a member of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots.
“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the tea party last year,” Ross reported on Good Morning America. “Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes – but this is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.”
The report — which no other media touched and ABC News and Ross later would apologize for — drew immediate criticism from right-wing bloggers and ultimately from journalism experts on both sides of the aisle who felt that Ross irresponsibly sought to politicize the tragedy and engender controversy.
Rem Rieder, the editor and senior vice president of the American Journalism Review, called it an “egregious blunder” that delivered “yet another blow to the reeling credibility of the news media.”
“Brian Ross lost big time and so did ABC News,” Jay Rosen, an associate professor at New York University’s school of journalism, told POLITICO. “Ross reacted and went on instinct… So strong was this instinct that it overrode common newsroom sense and any innate sense of caution that might be left in Brian Ross.”
On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer called the false report of a connection to the tea party “not only scandalous but stupid.”
One senior media executive gloated about Ross’s mistake, “This happens all the time. Every single time.”
ABC News declined a request to interview Ross or an ABC News representative. When asked for comment, ABC pointed to Ross’s award-winning reporting and referred POLITICO to the statement it made earlier regarding today’s report.
“An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect,” the statement read. “ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.”
But sources at ABC News, who spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity, said that for all of his landmark scoops, Ross’s latest and much-publicized blunder had further solidified his reputation inside the network as a reporter who is prone toward spectacular errors.
To his critics, those failures are legion.
In 2001, Ross reported that Iraq and Saddam Hussein may have been responsible for anthrax attacks on the United States, citing four anonymous high-level sources who claimed there was bentonite in the anthrax. The White House later stated that “no tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite” and that “the claim was concocted from the start.”
In 2006, Ross reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a target in the federal corruption investigation involving then-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After the Justice Department denied the story, Ross stood by his reporting and stated that Hastert was ‘very much in the mix’ of the probe, despite the fact that Hastert had never been approached by prosecutors.
In 2007, Ross accepted a claim by former CIA agent John Kiriakou that 35 seconds of waterboarding had led suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah to disclose terrorist plots to the CIA. Despite the fact that Kirakou was not present at Zubayadah’s interrogation, the claim was repeated for days by other networks and newspapers and used as evidence for advocates of the waterboarding technique. A year and a half later, a Justice Department memo would show that Zubayadah had undergone waterboarding “at least 83 times.”
In 2010, Ross reported that a defect in Toyota cars was responsible for “unintended acceleration.” As part of his report, he showed video footage of the Toyota’s tachometer going from 1,000 RPMs to 6,000 RPMs in a single second. But the same footage revealed that the car was actually parked with the doors open when Ross claimed it was moving. ABC News confirmed that the stage footage had been spliced into Ross’s video.
For six years, Ross also oversaw ABC News consultant Alexis Debat, the self-proclaimed counterterrorism expert who was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had misrepresented himself on his resume and faked an interview with then-Senator Barack Obama.
Glenn Greenwald, the lawyer and Salon columnist who has been one of Ross’s fiercest critics over the years, argues that the ABC reporter is driven by a penchant for sensationalism.
“Brian Ross is responsible for several of the establishment media’s most shameful and reckless journalistic falsehoods of the last decade,” Greenwald told POLITICO. “His reporting philosophy seems to be to go on TV and say whatever he thinks will garner attention and create ‘scoops,’ without the slightest concern for whether it’s actually true.”
When asked what may have motivated Ross to report a connection between the alleged shooting suspect and the tea party, based off nothing more than a matching name and location, sources at ABC News attributed it to Ross’s desire to create news, and dismissed any suspicion of partisanship.
“I would emphatically say its not a left-right thing. I’ve never discerned in his reporting any ideological movement,” one ABC News source told POLITICO. “It’s the big sensational story that he’s after, and he’ll do the same on either side.”
To be sure, many of Ross’s stories have earned him numerous awards and even led to changes in federal legislation.
One report on the Peace Corps won Ross and the ABC investigative unit a Peabody award, a George Polk award, a Deadline Club award, a Society of Professional Journalists award, an Investigative Reporters and Editors award, and a Gracie award — and led President Obama to sign a new federal law protecting Peace Corps assault victims.
Ross and his team also won won a Society of Professional Journalists award for a joint report with the Center for Public Integrity on Solyndra. In April, Ross broke the news that U.S. officials were on the watch for terrorists with body bombs looking to target U.S.-bound planes.
Under David Westin, who served as president of ABC News from 1997 to 2010, the network seems to have tolerated Ross’s errors in exchange for his scoops and exclusives. Sources say they are uncertain how Ben Sherwood, who took over from Westin in 2010, will respond to Ross’s report on the tea party connection.