ABC News chief James Goldston addressed his network’s response to reporter Brian Ross’ on-air blunder, saying ABC has acted honorably by owning up to the mistake.
“We live in a moment where the stakes are very very high. In a fake news era, Brian Ross was a good example of that. We made a mistake. We made an error. We treated it in a serious way,” Goldston told an audience at the Financial Times Future of News conference in New York City Thursday.
“We dealt with it in a serious way and our audience will accept that. What they wont accept is people who make mistakes and try to obfuscate and hide.”
Ross made international headlines when he reported on air at ABC News that Donald Trump had ordered his campaign surrogate Michael Flynn to make contact with Russians while he was a candidate running in the 2016 presidential election. The news moved markets and provided what many thought was the first concrete evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia during the election.
Unfortunately for Ross, the true story was that Trump only ordered Flynn to make contact after he was president-elect — a bombshell difference that effectively rendered the story a nothing burger.
“We won’t ever let a story be out there uncorrected,” said Goldston. “The stakes are high.”
ABC ultimately suspended Ross for four weeks without pay.
“It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience. These are our core principles,” ABC News wrote in a statement at the time. Ross has since returned to the network in a lower profile role to work on “long-term projects.”
Goldston made his remarks while on a panel which also featured CBS News Executive Vice-President Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and Univision Chief Content Officer Isaac Lee.