Beleaguered chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is leaving ABC News seven months after he botched an “exclusive” report on Donald Trump and Russia that sent the stock market tumbling.
News President James Goldston announced to staffers on Monday that Ross, and his longtime producer Rhonda Schwartz, have “decided to leave the company” in a memo that was obtained by Fox News.
"In their long careers here, Brian, Rhonda and their team have been recognized with nearly every prestigious award in our business – an impressive tally of four George Polk awards, four Peabody awards, four duPonts, five Murrows, 17 News and Documentary Emmys and the Harvard Goldsmith Prize, in 2014, for the single best investigative report in print or broadcast,” Goldston wrote.
The ABC News boss continued: “They’ve exposed government corruption at every level, international human rights abuses and fraud, uncovered dangerous working conditions, sexual abuse cover-ups and dishonest business practices. Their work has led repeatedly to real changes in policy in the U.S. and around the world. They broke numerous stories following 9/11 about the government investigation of the attacks, from the identification of the terrorists to secret CIA prisons. Over the years they have built a team of the best investigative journalists in our industry, and they leave behind an outstanding group that will continue to break stories for many years to come.”
There was no immediate indication where Ross and Schwartz were headed next.
Earlier this year, ABC News demoted Ross when he returned from a suspension handed down after he reported incorrectly on live television that fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn would testify that Trump had ordered him to make contact with Russians about foreign policy while Trump was still a candidate. The report raised the specter of Trump’s impeachment and sent the stock market plummeting.
After ABC was forced to retract the report, Goldston said on a staff conference call that he’d never felt more “rage, disappointment and frustration” in his entire career. In a statement, ABC News said Ross’ report “had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process.”
“It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience,” ABC’s statement added. “These are our core principles. We fell far short of that."
Just after the hard-charging Ross was suspended, President Trump told a crowd in Florida that the ABC News reporter should have been fired.
“They took this fraudster from ABC,” Trump said. “They suspended him for a month. They should have fired him for what he wrote. He drove the stock market down 350 points in minutes, which by the way, tells you they really like me, right? When you think of it, and you know what he cost people? And I said to everybody: 'get yourself a lawyer and sue ABC News, sue them.'”
Trump has continued to attack Ross and ABC parent company Disney over the gaffe. When Ross returned from suspension, he was reassigned to ABC News’ outside production house, Lincoln Square Productions. Many industry insiders assumed his days at ABC News were coming to an end when Goldston banned him from covering Trump.
The fumble was another in a series of black marks for Ross, who has been at ABC News since 1994 after spending nearly two decades at NBC. Perhaps most infamously, Ross reported in 2012 that Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes may have had ties to the Tea Party movement. He has not been sanctioned for past errors.
Schwartz -- whose contract was reportedly tied to Ross -- was also relocated to Lincoln Square.
The duo told colleagues that they aren't finished reporting.
“While we are signing off from ABC News, we are hardly leaving investigative journalism. There is much more to do,” Ross and Schwartz wrote in a farewell memo.
Fox News’ Frank Miles contributed to this report.