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Brian Elliot Ross (born October 23, 1948) is an American reporter for ABC News. He has been with ABC News since July 1994. From 1974 until 1994, Ross was a correspondent for NBC News. He has won awards and broken important news, but has also been criticized for breaking stories too quickly without sufficient fact-checking.
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Ross was born and raised in Chicago, He graduated from the the University of Iowa journalism school and worked for KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa. He went on to work for WCKT-TV in Miami and WKYC-TV in Cleveland, before becoming a national correspondent for NBC News from 1975 to 1994. From 1994 to the present, he has been a reporter for ABC News, working on various programs such as World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, 20/20, and Good Morning America.
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In the mid-1970s, while reporting for WKYC-TV in Cleveland, Ross developed a national reputation for reporting on Jackie Presser and corruption in the Teamsters union. He also interviewed mobster Danny Greene on several occasions, despite difficulties finding camera crews willing to go to Greene's home. Ross continued to report on the Teamsters after being hired for the NBC Nightly News. His reporting on the Teamsters won him a Sigma Delta Chi award in 1976 and a National Headliner award in 1977.
In October 2001, Ross reported twice linking Iraq to the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States. These reports were based upon anonymous "high level" sources and were both denied by the Administration. In November 2001, Ross updated the story, reporting that original reports of bentonite in the anthrax samples were incorrect. Glenn Greenwald criticized Ross for the story, stating that Ross unwittingly helped build support for the invasion of Iraq as a result of this high profile report. Dan Froomkin asked on August 5, 2008 in the Washington Post "So who told ABC the powder looked Iraqi?"
On January 14, 2004, a report by Brian Ross on the eve of the Iowa caucus linked presidential candidate Howard Dean to a trooper who worked for him when he was Vermont’s governor and had “‘engaged in acts of domestic violence’”. Ross was criticized in the Columbia Journalism Review for this report, because the report presented no evidence to indicate that Dean was aware the abuse when he wrote a character reference for the employee in a custody dispute, and because there was evidence to suggest that in fact Dean was not aware of the abuse at that time.
On May 24, 2006, Ross reported on the lead story for ABC World News Tonight that the Justice Department was investigating Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, for possible connections to the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. Both the Justice Department and Dennis Hastert issued denials, but Ross insisted the story was correct. Ross did say that the investigation may eventually "wash out and be nothing". Hastert was never approached by the Justice Department.
On September 6, 2006, Ross reported that Pakistan has decided not to seek the capture of Osama bin Laden, so long as bin Laden acts "like a peaceful citizen." Pakistan denied the report. The report was based on a telephone interview in which ABC quoted the Pakistani General as saying, "Q. ABC News: If bin Laden or Zawahiri were there, they could stay? A. Gen. Sultan: No one of that kind can stay. If someone is there he will have to surrender, he will have to live like a good citizen, his whereabouts, exit travel would be known to the authorities."
On December 10, 2007, Ross reported that a key [9/11] terrorist had produced valuable information after 30 seconds of waterboard interrogation. This report was later withdrawn by ABC news. Salon accused Ross of "spreading falsehoods", Gawker included the incident in a 2009 article accusing Ross of being "notoriously desperate" for a story and the New York Times debunked the report by documenting that the suspect had not been waterboarded for 30 seconds but had been waterboarded "at least 83 times", and suggested that Ross's false report drove public acceptance of torture.
In November 2009, Ross co-wrote an article titled "Officials: Army Told of Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda" which claimed that Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan had made attempts to "make contact with people associated with al Qaeda". He made the same claims on Good Morning America. Other reporters said that Nidal's contact was limited to emails to his former imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, who had also been the imam of two of the September 11 terrorists.
In a broadcast on February 22, 2010 entitled "Expert: Electronic Design Flaw Linked to Runaway Toyotas" which aired the night before a Congressional Panel began investigating the issue of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, Ross claimed that the problem was caused by a defect in the electronic system. Toyota pointed out that the expert used by Ross was paid by the defense attorneys, and the video footage by Ross showing a tachometer shooting from 1,000 to 6,200 RPM was staged because the vehicle was actually sitting in a parking lot with the transmission firmly in Park. Toyota has demanded a public retraction and formal apology from Ross and ABC News. ABC News responded that the staged footage was an "editorial error" made to replace video captured during the actual drive that was too shaky, but that the readings of the induced surge were comparable.
On July 19, 2011, according to the presidential campaign of Michele Bachmann, when attempting to question Bachmann about her migraines, Ross "rushed toward" Bachmann and her staff and "disregarded repeated requests to stay back". According to Michael Crowley, a reporter for Time who witnessed the resulting intervention by Bachmann staffers, the staffers "pounced on [Ross], grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked [...] like unusual force. In fact, [Crowley had] never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one." Ross said he'd only been treated like that before "mostly by Mafia people." Ross appeared on The View and various media outlets to discuss the incident., it also underscored concerns being raised in the media regarding Bachmann's health.
Over a 10-month period in 2011, Ross and Anna Schecter reported on the murder of a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. Ross and Schechter received the 2011 George Polk Award for Television Reporting for this series of reports.
On the air during coverage of the 2012 Aurora Shooting, Ross suggested a connection between a member of a Colorado Tea Party group and the shooting, based on the gunman's name, without any confirmed evidence. Several media outlets called Ross out on his statement, with RealClearPolitics demanding his firing. ABC News President Ben Sherwood later apologized for the incident both publicly in remarks before the Television Critics Association and privately in a conversation with the victim, saying that the Ross report, "did not live up to the standards and practices of ABC News."
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