ABC News president James Goldston is stepping down following a rocky, seven-year tenure that saw the once-venerable news institution stumble in a series of embarrassing mistakes and internal controversies, including an alleged coverup of a report on the late Jeffrey Epstein.
Goldston said he will leave the network at the end of March, according to an internal memo obtained by multiple news outlets. “I’ve decided this is the right moment to move on as this incredible era of news ends and another begins,” Goldston wrote, saying that his position was “one of the great jobs in all of journalism.”
During his tenure, Goldston oversaw the flagship primetime program World News Tonight with David Muir, which has become a ratings juggernaut for the network. But the network’s success has been marred by several journalistic mishaps.
The largest controversy was ABC News’ decision not to run an investigation into pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, claiming that the reporting on the story didn’t meet its “standards.” The controversy arose after Project Veritas published a leaked video showing ABC News reporter Amy Robach suggesting the network had refused to run her bombshell interview with an Epstein accuser who had photographs and other evidence. The network claimed “not all of our reporting met our standards to air,” but as a direct comparison, it had run unsubstantiated (and later discredited) accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.
To make matters worse, the network furiously tried to hunt down the person who leaked that clip and prematurely identified Ashley Bianco — a former staffer who had since gone on to CBS — as the whistleblower, getting her fired from her new job. Project Veritas later claimed that the leaker was a current ABC employee.
Project Veritas caused ABC News to throw another employee under the bus in 2020. Senior Correspondent David Wright was caught on tape trashing the network’s coverage and calling himself a socialist; he was soon suspended.
In another major embarrassment, ABC News aired footage of what it initially claimed to be a Turkish military operation against Kurdish civilians in northern Syria. The network framed the violence as a direct consequence of then-President Donald Trump’s decision to order U.S. forces out of that region.
But the video turned out to be footage filmed at a Kentucky gun range in 2017. The colossal error drew sharp criticism from the president, who called it a “disgrace.”
In 2018, ABC News suspended investigative reporter Brian Ross for his botched report on Michael Flynn, which the network called a “serious error.” Ross claimed that then-candidate Donald Trump had directed Flynn to make contact with the Russians. It later turned out that Trump had done so not as a candidate but as president-elect.
The network retracted the story and Ross eventually resigned.
This month, ABC News political director Rick Klein caught heat after he called for a “cleansing” of Trump supporters following the Capitol Hill riots.
ABC News is owned by the Walt Disney Co., which is currently under fire for its close business ties to the Chinese Communist Party.