ABC came under increasing fire Friday after claiming that alleged theater shooter James Holmes had ties to the tea party.
Reporter Brian Ross made the shocking accusation on "Good Morning America" after discovering the Colorado Tea Party Patriots had a member called James Holmes.
Ross admitted on air that he did not know whether the two men were the same, but still went ahead with his claim that the tragedy in Aurora in which 12 people were killed and 59 injured could be linked to the grassroots group.
ABC later apologized online and Ross tweeted, "Earlier I reported incorrectly that the shooting suspect might be tied to the Tea Party. I apologize for the mistake,” but those two statements would have been seen by just a fraction of the number of people who watched his original report.
Conservatives were joined by journalism groups in attacking Ross. In an article entitled "Well, It Might Be the Same Guy," Rem Rieder, editor of the American Journalism Review was scathing.
"What was he thinking?" wrote Reider. "How could Brian Ross, ABC's chief investigative correspondent, make such a ridiculous mistake?
"If you don't know, how in the world can you think it's a good idea to 'report' it on network television as the nation tries to come to terms with another mass murder. And why? Why would you do it?" asked Rieder, who described Ross' error as "yet another blow to the reeling credibility of the news media."
Tea party groups wer furious at Ross' link. Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer was left fuming. “This was completely irresponsible on behalf of ABC News, but clearly shows their lack of journalistic integrity,” she told Newsmax.
“Although they have issued a retraction, the seed has been planted. Once again, they show their malice towards the tea party movement and their agenda of wanting to tear us down.
“This is the perfect example of why the blogosphere has become even more relevant in politics, because that is where we can go to get the facts and correct information. ABC News might find their ratings would climb if they would stick to reporting the facts and stop speculating,” she stated.
“Honestly,” she continued, “it is disgusting that they would interject politics so quickly into this tragedy. Today should be a day for thoughts and prayers for all involved.”
Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots said, “We call on ABC News to immediately stop all reckless and false reporting, and we are putting all media outlets on notice that false political attacks on the American people will no longer be tolerated. We demand the media report responsibly.”
Colorado Tea Party Patriots does have a member called James Holmes. But he is 52. The alleged shooter in Aurora is 24. The two men are unrelated.
Just before noon, a note posted on the ABC News web site stated: “An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.”
Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, also blasted ABC and Ross.
“Ross slandered every American even loosely associated with the tea party, and he owes them an apology,” Bozell wrote on the Council’s website, NewsBusters.
“He must also apologize to Good Morning America's audience, the James Holmes he falsely implicated of mass murder, and, most of all, to each and every person in Colorado directly or indirectly affected by this horrific tragedy.
“In a moment that demanded clarity of thought and purpose, Ross rushed to slander those with whom he does not agree politically, exposing the depths and darkness of his political prejudices. Shame on Brian Ross, and shame on ABC News for not yet demanding he look directly into the camera and beg forgiveness for politicizing this terrible event.
“Ross' meek Twitter apology is a cynically insincere slap in the face to us all.”
Many conservative websites called on Ross to resign for the error. "How many more years will ABC give him before he's retired?" asked Wlady Pleszczynski on The American Spectator while an article on ProteinWisdom.com said, "Apologies won’t do this time: Brian Ross needs to resign, or ABC needs to fire him."
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