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Is ABC News’ Brian Ross Trustworthy?

Brian Ross of ABC News is the reporter behind the story that Rep. Dennis Hastert is being investigated by the Department Of Justice. Ross is sticking to his charges despite vehement denials from both the DOJ and Hastert himself.

Some may recall that Brian Ross has been involved in past journalistic controversies. Just last week, Mr. Ross reported he was tipped off by unnamed "senior federal officials" that his cell phone was tapped by NSA.

Last month, Ross was one of the first (if not the first) to report that Rush Limbaugh "had been arrested." Reports which turned out to be greatly exaggerated, but which Ross never corrected.

In January, Brian Ross was the first to promulgate the claims of the self-proclaimed NSA whistleblower, Russell Tice. Ross treated Tice has a highly credible source even though Tice had been cashiered from the agency due to "psychological problems."

But all of these recent achievements pale in comparison to Mr. Ross’s earlier journalistic lapse, if an earlier entry in Wikipedia is to be believed. For it claimed Ross who was responsible for Dateline NBC’s rigging of truck fuel tanks in 1993.

Here is how the earlier Wikipedia entry for Dateline NBC used to read, via their mirror site at Answers.com:

Controversy

On 18 February 1993 Dateline NBC aired an investigative report about General Motors pickup trucks allegedly exploding upon impact during accidents, because fuel tanks were badly designed. Although there were fuel tanks design problems with GM cars before, Dateline’s film showed a sample of a staged low speed accident with the fuel tank exploding. Dateline NBC did not disclose the fact that this accident was staged, or the fact that the only reason there was an explosion was that the vehicle contained planted explosives. The viewers were never told about it. It appeared to be a major discovery of investigative reporters. GM investigators discovered a mistake by a study of the Dateline film. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation lawsuit against NBC. The lawsuit in question was quickly settled by NBC and as a result Brian Ross and a few persons responsible for the incident were fired from NBC, and Ross found employment with ABC News, where he continues to work to this day.

But this is how Wikipedia Dateline entry reads currently:

Controversy

On February 18, 1993, Dateline NBC aired an investigative report about General Motors pickup trucks allegedly exploding upon impact during accidents, because fuel tanks were badly designed. Although there were fuel tanks design problems with GM cars before, Dateline’s film showed a sample of a staged low speed accident with the fuel tank exploding. Dateline NBC did not disclose the fact that this accident was staged, or the fact that the only reason there was an explosion was that the vehicle contained planted explosives. The viewers were never told about it. It appeared to be a major discovery of investigative reporters. GM investigators discovered a mistake by a study of the Dateline film. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation lawsuit against NBC. The lawsuit in question was quickly settled by NBC.

The following Dateline NBC producers were dismissed: Jeff Diamond, executive producer; David Rummel, senior producer; and Robert Read, producer of the report on the pickups. The reporter involved in the segment, Michele Gillen, transferred to Miami station, WTVJ. Michael G. Gartner, president of the news division, resigned under pressure. Source: Kolbert, Elizabeth (Mar. 23, 1993). "NBC Admits Bad Judgment in Truck Report". The New York Times, sec. D, p. 23.

Even though the new incident was staged it inspired many highly publicized lawsuits, and GM greatly reduced the fuel capacity of their trucks as a result. The publicity also drove other automotive companies to make similar changes and even destroyed the high capacity third party fuel tank market that thrived up to then. Today its almost impossible to improve a truck’s fuel range by adding a tank that is designed to be mounted under the vehicle.

Note the conspicuous deletion of any reference to Brian Ross.

Several sites, including Free Republic, cited the Wikipedia article vis a vis Ross as recently as Dateline’s NASCAR incident last month.

Perhaps it is a correction of earlier misinformation. But the records of those involved in the Dateline scam seem to be quite scarce on the internet.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, May 25th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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