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ABC demotes Brian Ross after bungled report on Trump, Russia

ABC demotes Brian Ross after bungled report on Trump, Russia

ABC News has demoted its embattled chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, after he botched an “exclusive” report on Donald Trump and Russia.

News President James Goldston announced to staffers on Friday that Ross would be reassigned to ABC News’ outside production house, Lincoln Square Productions. Ross, who had been scheduled to return from a four-week, unpaid suspension on Thursday, will not be resuming his former, longtime role. He is believed to be retaining his title of “chief investigative correspondent,” though he will not be seen on ABC with live reports.

Lincoln Square Productions is separate from the rest of ABC News and creates unscripted programming for ABC and cable channels such as Discovery Life and Investigation Discovery. The Disney-owned unit is in a separate building — located a few blocks from ABC News — that houses “The Chew” and “Dr. Oz” and was home to major soap operas until 2011.

Lincoln Square Productions seems an odd fit for Ross, a hard charging news reporter. Lincoln Square does little so-called “hard news.” Its biggest program is the reality show “What Would You Do?” on ABC, though it has also produced some more serious documentary programming.

Ross will still appear on both “20/20” and “Nightline” as needed, according to a source close to the situation. However, not everyone involved with the network agrees. 

“He will never be on ABC air again,” said an ABC insider about Ross. The insider speculated that the correspondent has been handed a sinecure while his contract winds down.

Members of Ross’ investigative unit who are not relocated to the new building will continue to work for ABC News and will not lose their jobs, according to an ABC source.

“[Brian Ross] will never be on ABC air again”

– Network insider

Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas are expected to pick up some of the investigative reporting that would have typically gone to Ross – specifically when it involves President Trump or the Mueller investigation. 

Goldston told staffers last month that Ross would never again be allowed to cover President Trump. ABC News has steered increasingly away from investigations in recent years and does not have another dedicated investigative correspondent.

Ross’ longtime producer, Rhonda Schwartz — whose contract is reportedly tied to Ross — is also relocating to Lincoln Square.

Ross was initially suspended 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.

Just after Ross was suspended, President Trump told a crowd in Florida that Ross 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.” 

For his part, Ross wrote on Twitter that his job “is to hold people accountable” and noted, “That’s why I agree with being held accountable myself.”

Ross’ gaffe was the latest in a series of black marks for the multi-award winning reporter, who has been at ABC News since 1994 after spending nearly two decades at NBC. He had not been sanctioned for past errors.

Ross will start his new gig on Monday. 

ABC News did not respond to request for comment. 

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.

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