Brian Ross turns fabulist again.
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SSgt. Chase told a University of Nebraska seminar that she deployed to Afghanistan in 2005 and was injured in an IED attack in April 2006. She testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2009 that she served in Afghanistan in 2006. But according to Funk’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the MEP contract was awarded in late 2007.
Mosk contends that ABC brought Chase in as an expert. When I repeatedly asked if Chase had ever observed any MEP translators in action, he demurred: “She wasn’t in Afghanistan when Mission Essential Personnel held the contract.” (Chase declined to be interviewed for this article.)
In government contracts, one or more “warranted” (i.e., licensed) contracting officers (“COs”) are responsible for awarding and administering each contract. Because the contracting officer is legally responsible to hold the contractor accountable for its performance of the contract, the CO receives both regular and ad-hoc reports on how well the contractor is performing from people in the field. If there were major problems — probably even minor ones — the Army CO responsible for MEP’s contract would know.
Ross does report — based on documents that MEP provided — that the Army contracting officers gave MEP outstanding ratings. But ABC didn’t obtain — and apparently is in ignorance of — the extensive documentation that the system requires to support those ratings. Mosk said that ABC had asked for more information but its requests resulted only in the Army statement that it was now investigating MEP.
Nowhere in the report was MEP given an opportunity to refute Funk’s charges. Mosk said that ABC had “begged and beseeched” MEP to come on camera, but MEP on the advice of their lawyers refused to do so.
After the interview, Mosk provided two e-mails to MEP which he believes supports that claim, but seem to refute it. They offer, on short notice, interviews on the Friday before and the Tuesday after the Labor Day. The story aired the following Thursday without an interview of MEP.
BUT WHAT WAS THE RUSH? Why wasn’t the Ross report delayed in order to include an MEP interview?
Those facts, and Ross’s nine-year track record of fabulism, make the MEP report highly questionable.
In October 2001, Ross made a series of reports that linked Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attack on congressional offices, saying a chemical called bentonite was found in the anthrax and comprised a “signature” of the Iraq chemical warfare program. After White House denials, ABC aired a series of elaborations, some of which “clarified” Ross’s story but didn’t correct the report.
In April 2006, Ross aired a report that then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert was implicated in a bribery scandal. Both the Justice Department and Hastert denied the bogus report.
Last December, Ross reported that two terrorist prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had planned the Christmas Day attempted airline bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But one of the two had surrendered to Saudi authorities the previous February.
Last February, Ross aired a report purporting to prove the accusation against Toyota that its cars were defective and dangerous, suddenly accelerating and endangering drivers. Ross was filmed in a Toyota that accelerated wildly and then emerging, shaken, from the car after the incident. Part of the report included a film of Ross driving a Toyota which included a view of the car’s tachometer purporting to show that the vehicle accelerated wildly. But in a March 18 letter to Toyota signed by ABC Senior Vice President John Zucker, the network admitted that the tachometer was filmed when the car was parked. It was, the Zucker letter admitted, an “editorial error.” But it was more than that: it was an editorial contrivance to prove the point that Toyotas were dangerous to drive.
Ross used a decorated combat veteran — who wasn’t there when MEP’s translators were on the job — to bolster his case against MEP. Were the inclusion of the British film and SSgt. Chase more “editorial errors”?
I asked Mosk about those problems. He said, “If you take the premise that this is a story that’s intended to be an indictment of MEP and the other elements are all built around that indictment of MEP, then you’ve misconstrued what the story is.” But it’s hard to construe it any other way.
Whoever succeeds David Westin at ABC will have to undo a lot of damage to the network’s credibility. Right now, with Westin on the way out and no successor named, Brian Ross is still “investigating.”
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