Brian Ross (journalist)

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Brian Ross
Born Brian Ross
(1948-10-23) October 23, 1948 (age 65)
Chicago, Chicago, United States
Education University of Iowa
Occupation Television journalist
Spouse(s) Lucinda Sanman (m. 1985)
ABC news

Brian Elliot Ross (born October 23, 1948)[1] is an is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent. He reports extensively for “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Nightline,” “Good Morning America,” and “20/20,” as well as for ABC News Radio and “The Blotter” on Ross joined ABC News in July 1994. Ross’s investigative reports have exposed corruption at all levels of government, led to changes in domestic laws and prompted reforms abroad.[2]

In addition to filing for all ABC News broadcasts, Ross files reports for ABC News Radio, available to 2,500 affiliates around the country. He also reports throughout the day for the Investigative Unit’s website, “The Blotter,” on Since launching in April 2006, the Blotter has quickly become one of the most popular destinations on, receiving an average of 5 million readers a month.

He has been with ABC News since July 1994. From 1974 until 1994, Ross was a correspondent for NBC News.


Ross was born and raised in Chicago, He graduated from 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. Since 1994, he has been a reporter for ABC News, working on various programs such as World News with Diane Sawyer, 20/20, Good Morning America, Nightline, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, ABC News Radio and "The Blotter" on[3]

Brian Ross, the subject of this article, is often confused with Brian Ross the husband of well known American journalist Ann Curry. Curry's husband is a different individual, not a journalist, but a software executive who is also named Brian Ross.

Notable news reports[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5]

In 1980, Ross was broke the ABSCAM story, for which he was honored with a National Headliner Award.[6] Furthermore, he landed an exclusive report in March 1990 about Iraq trying to buy trigger mechanisms for nuclear weapons just months before the Iraqi invasion.[7]

In an award-winning two-part report for “Dateline NBC” in 1992, Ross exposed Wal-Mart’s use of child labor in overseas sweatshops to provide clothing for their “Buy American” campaign.[8] Ross also broke stories about French intelligence spying on American businessmen and was the first reporter to track down the fugitive Marc Rich at his Swiss hideaway.[9]

Following September 11, 2001, Ross and the Investigative Unit broke numerous stories about the investigation into the terrorist attacks. Among several exclusive reports, Ross was the first reporter to name Mohamed Atta and describe him as the ringleader of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.[10] He was also the first to report on Zacarias Moussaoui’s alleged role in the attacks and his questioning by the FBI prior to September 11.[11] His “Primetime Thursday” story about the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 featured the first airing of transmissions between the plane’s cockpit and air traffic controllers.

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.[12] In November 2001, Ross updated the story, reporting that original reports of bentonite in the anthrax samples were incorrect.[13] 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.[14][15] Dan Froomkin asked on August 5, 2008 in the Washington Post[16] "So who told ABC the powder looked Iraqi?"

The NY Sun reported that Ross was ordered by a federal judge to reveal his sources.[17] In response, an ABC News spokesperson said that the organization was going to protect its sources.

On January 14, 2004, a report by Brian Ross[18] 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.[19]

His noted undercover investigation of nuclear smuggling, which questioned whether American authorities could stop a shipment of radioactive material from entering the country, received the duPont Award in 2004.[20]

A long-time national security reporter, Ross was the first to reveal new details on the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, where top al Qaeda figures were being held.[21] The exclusive 3-part investigation, which aired on “World News” and “Nightline,” garnered a 2005 George Polk Award, the fifth time he has won the award in his career.[22]

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.[23] Ross did say that the investigation may eventually "wash out and be nothing".[24] Hastert was never approached by the Justice Department.[25]

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."[26] Pakistan denied the report.[27] 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."[28]

On September 29, 2006, Ross reported that Rep. Mark Foley sent underage male congressional aides sexually explicit internet messages;[29] the ensuing scandal led to Foley's resignation. His exclusive 2006 exclusive investigation into the congressional page scandal involving Congressman Mark Foley resulted in his fifth Peabody Award for his series of reports: “Conduct Unbecoming.” Ross has received numerous honors for “Conduct Unbecoming,” including an Emmy Award,[30] a Peabody Award,[31] a USC Annenberg Walter Cronkite Award,[32] an IRE Award,[33] the 2007 National Headliner Award for Television Affiliated Online Journalism,[34] and the Online News Association Journalism Award.[35]

Ross received the 2007 Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting for a two-part “20/20” undercover investigation into retail pharmacy errors, focusing on large drugstore chains, including CVS and Walgreens.[36] He was also honored with a 2007 Business Emmy for his work in exposing conflicts-of-interest of some West Virginia State Supreme Court justices.[37]

When the Bernard Madoff scandal broke in December 2008, Ross was one of the first reporters to cover Madoff, his family and associates, and how the scam was perpetrated over so many years. Ross’s extensive reporting on the subject led to his first book, “The Madoff Chronicles: Inside the Secret World of Bernie and Ruth,” published in fall 2009.[38]

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".[39][40] He made the same claims on Good Morning America.[41] 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.[42]

In 2010 Ross received his seventh duPont-Columbia Award, one of the most prestigious awards in broadcast journalism, for the “20/20” investigation “The Coach’s Secret,” which exposed a scandal in youth swimming and led to major reform in the sport.[43] This report also earned him a 2011 CINE Golden Eagle Award.[44] In addition, Ross’s investigation “Taking on Toyota,” which prompted one of the largest automobile recalls in history, was awarded the Edward R Murrow Award from the RTNDA in 2011.[45] Additionally, Ross gained notoriety for his expose of a “pay-to-play” grading system by the Better Business Bureau.

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".[46] 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."[47][48] Ross appeared on The View[49][50] and various media outlets to discuss the incident.,[51][52] it also underscored concerns being raised in the media regarding Bachmann's health.[53]

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.[54][55]

In 2012 Ross earned his sixth George Polk Award,[56] sixth Peabody Award[57] and two Emmy Awards,[58] including best investigation in a news magazine story for his “20/20” investigation “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed,” which exposed the cover-up of sexual abuse of Peace Corps volunteers and led to Congressional hearings and calls for new legislation.[59] He was also awarded with a 2012 Gracie Award for the report.[60]

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[61][62] called Ross out on his statement, with RealClearPolitics demanding his firing.[63] 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."[64]

In 2013, his investigation “Tragedy in Bangladesh,” which examined the dangerous safety conditions and controls at factories in Bangladesh where workers sewed clothes for iconic America brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Walmart, was honored with the 2013 Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism[65] and 2013 CINE Golden Eagle Award.[66] In addition, Ross’s “Nightline” investigation “Undercover Granny: Medicare Fraud,” which unveiled an alleged Medicare fraud operation in Texas was honored with an award for “Outstanding Investigative Program or Feature” at the 2013 Gracie Awards.[67]


In 2012, Ross received his sixth George Polk Award, a sixth Peabody Award and two Emmy Awards, including best investigation in a news magazine story for his "20/20" investigation "Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed given annually by Long Island University to honor special achievement in journalism.[68][dead link]

Ross’s work has been repeatedly honored with the most prestigious awards in journalism, including seven duPont-Columbia Awards, six Peabody Awards, six Polk Awards, 16 Emmys, five awards from the Overseas Press Club, and five Edward R. Murrow Awards and many more.

Full list of awards:

• 1988 George Polk Award- “War on Drugs/Money Laundering” (NBC)[69] • 1992 George Polk Award- “Made in the USA” (NBC)[70] • 1997 George Polk Award- “Blood Money”[71] • 1998 George Polk Award- “Shame of Saipan”[72] • 2005 George Polk Award- “CIA Secret Prisons”[22] • 2011 George Polk Award- “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed”[73]

• 2001 Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award and Bronze Medallion- “Investigative Reports Post 9/11”[74]

• 1974/75 duPont-Columbia Award- “Teamster Power” (WKYC)[75] • 1983/83 duPont- Columbia Award- “Outstanding Investigative Reporting”[75] • 1985/85 duPont Columbia Award- “Outstanding Investigative Reporting"[75] • 2001/02 duPont-Columbia Award- “Coverage of 9/11”[75] • 2003/04 duPont-Columbia Award- “The Nuclear Smuggling Project”[75] • 2007/08 duPont-Columbia Award– “Afghanistan: The Forgotten War”[75] • 2009/10 duPont-Columbia Award– “The Coach’s Secret”[75]

• 1974 Peabody Award- WCKTV “A Superb Series of Investigative Reports Which Brought Considerable Response & Change”[76] • 1991 Peabody Award- NBC News “B.C.C.I.”[76] • 1999 Peabody Award- “These Were Our Children”[76] • 2001 Peabody Award- “Coverage of September 11th"[76] • 2007 Peabody Award- “Conduct Unbecoming-The Mark Foley Scandal"[76]

• 2007 RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award- “The Mark Foley Investigation”[77] • 2008 RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award –“Pharmacy Errors”[78] • 2011 RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award – “Taking on Toyota”[79]

• 2001 Emmy Award – “ABC News Post 9/11 Investigation”[80] • 2005 Emmy Award- “The Money Trail”[81] • 2006 Emmy Award- “Conduct Unbecoming”[82] • 2007/8 Emmy Award : “The Multi-Million Dollar Appeal”[83] • 2009 Emmy Award: “Presidential Inauguration – Barack Obama”[84] • 2012 Emmy Award: Best News Magazine- “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed”[85] • 2012 Emmy Award: Investigation in a News Magazine- “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed”[85]

• 1990 Overseas Press Club Award - “Nuclear Power"[86]•1991 Overseas Press Club Award - “French Spies”[86]•1994 Overseas Press Club Award - “Made in China”[86]•1997 Overseas Press Club Award - “Blood Money”[86]•1998 Overseas Press Club Award – “Nazi Stolen Art”[86]

• 2012 Gracie Award- “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed”[60] • 2013 Gracie Award- “Undercover Granny: Medicare Fraud”[87]

• 2011 CINE Golden Eagle Award- “The Coach’s Secret”[44] • 2013 CINE Golden Eagle Award- “Tragedy in Bangladesh”[66]

• 2007 USC Annenberg Walter Cronkite Award- “The Mark Foley Investigation”[77]

• 2003 Gerald Loeb Award- Enron Document Shredding[88]

• 2005 Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Journalists- “UN Misconduct in the Congo”[89]

• 1998 IRE Tom Renner Award - “Blood Money”[90]

• 2001 Sigma Delta Chi – “ABC News 9-11 Investigation”[91]

• 2002 National Headliner Award – “From the Tower”[92] • 2004 National Headliner Award - “Charities Investigation”[92] • 2007 National Headliner Award - “The Mark Foley Investigation”[92]


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External links[edit]