Hours after mass murder at a 12am showing of the new Batman film, ABC News reporter Brian Ross went on Good Morning America and recklessly speculated that the killer could be a Tea Party member.
Ross appeared Friday morning during live coverage and told viewers, "There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well. Talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now, we don't know if this the same Jim Holmes." [MP3 audio here.] It wasn't the same person.
Co-host George Stephanopoulos eagerly touted Ross' accusations: "You've been looking- investigating the background of Jim Holmes here. You've found something that might be significant."
Three hours later, an apology appeared on ABCNews.com: "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."
The ABCNews.com article containing the retraction originally appeared in the fifth paragraph of an already existing article.
It noted, "Several other local residents with similar names were also contacted via social media by members of the public who mistook them for the suspect."
That sentence has since been removed from the article.
Breitbart.com featured an interview with the real James Holmes, a 52-year-old Hispanic Tea Party member-- and not a mass killer:
"It was freaky," said Holmes, describing his reaction when ABC News speculated that he was the culprit who entered a crowded theater and opened fire on dozens of innocent men, women, and children. He disconnected his telephone and says that he is worried about members of his family who might be contacted by the media.
Later in the morning during live coverage, Ross appeared on ABC News to admit his error: "[James Holmes] is not connected to the Tea Party."
The journalist also apologized on his Twitter account: "Earlier I reported incorrectly that the shooting suspect might be tied to the Tea Party. I apologize for the mistake."
In the early morning hours just after the killing, Ross quickly sought to make the shooting political.
At 4:13am, he tweeted, "No shortage of gun shops in the #Aurora area, more than 20 listed plus pawn shops #Colorado #batman #shooting."
In another tweet, he added, "#colorado gun laws tightened after Columbine shooting with tougher background checks by Colorado Bureau of Investigation on ppl buying guns."
A transcript of the original July 20th exchange can be found here:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to go to Brian Ross here, because, Brian, you've been looking- investigating the background of Jim Holmes here. You've found something that might be significant.
BRIAN ROSS: There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well. Talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now, we don't know if this the same Jim Holmes. But it's Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, we'll keep looking at that. Brian Ross, thanks very much.
-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.