You may have heard already that ABC News suspended reporter Brian Ross for four weeks with no pay after he reported incorrectly that Donald Trump directed Gen. Michael Flynn to contact the Russians during the 2016 presidential election.
What you may have missed is that ABC also took the additional, and unusual, step of barring Ross, its chief investigative reporter, from covering President Trump.
ABC News President James Goldston made the call this weekend, according to audio of an ABC editorial meeting obtained and published this week by CNN.
"I don't think ever in my career have I felt more rage and disappointment and frustration that I felt through this weekend and through the last half of Friday," Goldston said during the call.
He added: "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. 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.”
Ross alleged last week on live television that former national security advisor and longtime Trump ally Gen. Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that “as a candidate, Donald Trump ‘directed him to make contact with the Russians.’”
As it turns out, the referenced directive came after the 2016 election. The president-elect reportedly ordered his transition team to contact Russia and other world leaders regarding the incoming administration’s foreign policy objectives, which is standard for incoming presidents.
It took ABC eight hours to issue a correction. When it did, it characterized it incorrectly as a “clarification.”
"We just went on air with that information," Goldston told his editorial team. "We hadn't approved doing that. And the thing that just kills me about this is all we had to do was wait."
He added: "The thing that compounded our mistake is that not only did we make a mistake, if we had then corrected ourselves right away, again — we wouldn't be in this position. It would have been a very different story. But we ended up in the impossible situation where we had actually conflicting information that we said on air, which conflicted with the information that was online. And then it took us seven hours, eight hours to get our story straight. This is not acceptable. It's not acceptable. And we will all pay the price for a long time."
ABC News confirmed Tuesday morning that Ross is indeed banned from any further coverage of the president.
This seems like a fair decision. It also seems a bit overdue. This is not even close to being Ross’ first bungled report. He has a history of this sort of thing.
Ross misreported in 2001, for example, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the rash of anthrax attacks in the United States. He wasn’t.
In 2006, Ross reported incorrectly that then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was connected to the federal investigation of Jack Abramoff. He wasn’t.
One year later, Ross claimed falsely that suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah revealed secret plots after only 35 seconds of waterboarding. Zubaydah was waterboarded “at least 83 times,” according to a subsequent Justice Department memo.
In 2010, Ross was caught doctoring video of a Toyota vehicle affected by “unintended acceleration.”
In 2012, Ross claimed a member of the Colorado Tea Party named James Holmes was responsible for the Aurora theater mass shooting. The gunman was a different James Holmes.
Barring Ross from covering the president seems like a good first step towards cleaning up the mess he made for his network last week. While we're at it, there are a few additional topics ABC’s president may want to consider adding to the No-Ross list.