ABC News apologizes for speculation that theater shooter James Holmes linked to Tea Party

Politico | Mediaite |
During live coverage of the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting Friday morning, ABC News’ Brian Ross suggested the shooter, Jim Holmes, may be affiliated with the Colorado Tea Party. The only grounds for this seemed to be a mention on the group’s website of an Aurora man by the same name (not that uncommon a name) who joined last year. Ross reported:

There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo., 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 is the same Jim Holmes, but it is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo.

Conservative websites and tweeters are not happy about such loose speculation regarding a right-wing political connection. After the shooting of Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last year led some to blame violent Tea Party rhetoric and push for gun control, the anti-government crowd seems to be on watch for any efforts to connect it to Friday morning’s shooting.

Meanwhile, some bloggers are guessing the shooter has ties to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Update: Now blogger Joel Pollak retorts that Holmes “could be a registered Democrat,” justified by this gem of logic: “Breitbart News has not confirmed that this James Holmes is in fact the suspect, but … there are certainly more facts in our documents than in ABC News’ irresponsible speculations.”

Probably best for the media to wait until there’s some real evidence.

Update: ABC News now says it has spoken with the mother of the shooter and acknowledges the Tea Party connection was not true:

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. Several other local residents with similar names were also contacted via social media by members of the public who mistook them for the suspect.

ABC also issued an online apology: “ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.” And Ross said on-air: “An earlier report that I had was incorrect that he was connected with the Tea Party in fact that’s a different Jim Holmes. He was not connected to the Tea Party and what we do know about him is he is a 24-year-old white male who went to Colorado for a Ph.D.”

Related: How news of the #theatershooting spread through Twitter | Reddit covers the Colorado movie theater shootingJessica Ghawi, ‘aspiring sportscaster,’ dies in Aurora shooting

How to: 7 tips for covering the Colorado theater shooting6 ways journalists can cope when covering traumatic stories like the Colorado theater shooting

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Anonymous

     What interests me is that Holmes’ flat was full of Batmam Memorabilia yet he tells the cops he’s the Joker.  If Batman symbolizes Big Brother, the State and the Joker is the oppressed, he seemed to have shifted politics from right to left.  He also seems to have a crisis of sexual identity as if he migit be a repressed homosexual.  Did he switch from Tea party to Democrat, or Republican to Democrat as his overall situation deteriorates, now blaming the state for his overall failure.  How much DEBT did he have?  Just how washed up was he, no future as a neurobiologist, no income any more, no job, was to be evicted from his flat.  If he was to become homeless and deep in debt he would have a huge chip on his shoulder.

  • 0(o_o)0(-_-)(o…o)

    Bunch of Mocking Birds.

  • Bob

    He had a degree in neuroscience so that’s a good sign he’s probably not a member of the tea party.  Of course a crazy persons political beliefs doesn’t have any real significance except for petty partisan idiots.

  • Anonymous

    Breitbart is basically a blog, and admittedly partisan. ABC news is supposed to be a major source of independent reporting. Your comparison is a joke.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll say this – we need evidence before making accusations. The evidence tells the ENTIRE tale. As much as I’d love to score points with Independents about Obama, I can’t do it on the backs of the victims in this atrocity – at least not until I know more about who this barbarian was, what he believed in, and more importantly, was he acting (at least in his own mind) on behalf of someone (e.g.,, Romney or Obama). And we may never have sufficient evidence to know. For the victims’ sakes I hope we do find out. But until we do find out, I can’t use this atrocity to call out my political opponents. I wish others could show just a eensy-weensy bit of self-restraint.

  • rick in Fla.

    Lastly, I note this web site only allows one to click “like” and does not  have am”not like” or similar button to express disageement. But, silly me , why should I expect any less from a bunch of inbred college profs.

  • rick in Fla.

    Poynter you are not qualified to comment on the news. Consider the drive bry unsubstantiated bombs iin the above story such as “violent tea party rhetoric,” “anti government crowd” and then you attempt to, in your typical eletist way, deminish a consesrvative organization which says Holmes “could be a democrate” thereby implying , in your feeble attempt to be facitious, that Britbart is radical and irresponsible. While all the while not admitting the abc report is pathetic in that there was no vetting, probably not even a phone call by abc. Why do you not discuss responsible reporting and abc’s duty to properly onform the public. But, why should I expect anything more form your radical organization. Last I knew your board is a bunch of college professors with no real whord experience who would not know how to vet a piece if their life depnded upon it.

  • Jim Holmes

    I’m the one they impugned with apparent relish, so quick was their rush to judgement and I haven’t received any sort of apology.

    But, truly, the ones who deserve an apology are the dozens of families and victims – for bringing POLITICS into this tragedy even before the families were notified.

    They should feel shame, remorese any number of emotions – but they’ll feel  nothing, because when you get right down to it they are perhaps the most amoral self-serving group of people on the planet.  

  • Anonymous

    Frankly, Steve, I think you show your cards when you refer to them as “tea

    The problem is that the first thing Brian Ross did was to try and find a link between this
    individual and the tea party. It’s no wonder people complain about the liberal
    media. In this case (unlike the Fox News / CNN case you cite), the reporter’s
    ideology was the driving force. In his rush to assume a link with the tea
    party, he reported something that was false. The fact that he was even looking
    there shows his bias. How many of these types of shootings have been politically
    motivated? And how many have involved the tea party?  It’s almost always simply a deranged individual.

    Do I know for a fact that Brian Ross leans left? No. But I’ll take an educated guess.
    After all, in this industry, I have an 85% chance of being right,

  • JH

    I hate that you all are arguing over this. It’s so pointless. 

  • PointNLaugh

    OWS claimed him, now they’ve taken the post down for obvious reasons…

  • John Humphries

    now that we know hes not fromw the right, we wont hear anything else about his affiliation. liberal main stream media always quick to make the right look bad without the facts or distorting the facts for a news story.

  • Robert

    So how’d this whole thing begin, Kevin?
    Network news “reporter” Brian Ross tripping over himself to point the finger at one group in particular.
    There’s no “equal footing” after his spite-filled allegation.
    Ross started it by deliberately throwing a punch. And he missed.

    Liberals were praying Ross’ report was accurate.
    And now they’re insisting everyone take the high road?

  • Kevin S

    Actually, there’s no proof yet that he was an Occupier.  Just further speculation by right wingers who are ironically whining about the false Tea Party connection.

    This incident shouldn’t be politicized in the first place.  Anyone who does, is a horrible person.

  • Robert

    You are flat out high giving him a “bad journalism” pass. There was full intent behind what he did and it’s virtually undeniable. After the way the media handled Gabriella Giffords and white-Hispanic and (as it turned out) registered-Democrat George Zimmerman, I’m to believe it was bad journalism?
    Do you really think Brian Ross looked into the Occupy Colorado movement moments later to determine if Holmes was an attendee at any of their rallies?
    I’ll put those odds at zero. And then take the under.

    Honestly, save your absurd BS for someone stupid enough to believe you.

  • Robert

    Recall when Congresswoman Giffords, was shot in Tuscon, within HOURS websites, MSNBC and others were openly suggesting he might’ve been motivated by Sarah Palin’s website, which featured rifle scopes targeted at various “winnable” Congressional & Senate races around the country.
    Think about it; think of how bizarre a reach that is.
    Turns out he was a apolitical nut who despised George W. Bush, according to friends.

    Indefensible and hopelessly corrupt; the media no longer has a leg to stand on in this argument.

  • David Rf

    if i was the tea party Jim Holmes i would file a lawsuit and sue the fck out of them evenb with the apology it has the potential to ruin his reputation and their reputation teach em a lesson have them both fired and win like idk how many millions that is what i would do if i was him sue them for slander

  • Anonymous

    And the media continues to wonder why no one trusts them.  The wrongly identified Tea Party member won’t  win a suit. But his efforts will cost ABC a bundle in legal fees ala the Atlanta Constitution.

  • Anonymous

     Baloney: Probably the most basic tenet of journalism is confirmation of an ID. There is no room for shortcuts.

  • Anonymous


  • JimS

    Oh yes, MLady, because the Breitbart report clearly was not a sarcastic response to ABC’s “journalism.” Further evidence there is no hope for your kind.

  • JimS

    Daniel, the problem is that Brian Ross did his job exactly the way he is supposed to do it.

  • Steve Outing

    Rookie mistake by an established news organization. But c’mon, reporters: Whether the guy is a Tea Bagger or an Occupy extremist, or in between, it’s most likely that his act had to do with a psychotic breakdown. Unless *later* reporting confirms that his motivations were tied to a political or religious mindset, it’s irrelevant at this point in the reporting process — and irresponsible to air such conjecture. Really, really poor journalism, ABC News!

    To the folks blaming this on the “liberal media,” that’s horseshit. It’s bad journalism; a screw-up. Happens to every news organization from time to time, including “fair and balanced” Fox News. (Hmmm, didn’t Fox mess up the Supreme Court health care ruling?!) The early focus on this story belongs at examining the guy’s mental health history; we’ll figure out his political/religious leanings later, and *perhaps* figure out if there’s any connection. That doesn’t have to be the focus an hour after the event when no one really knows the facts.

  • Anonymous

    I just did an anywho search on James Holmes, Colorado and got 17 hits on landlines. No telling how many if cell phones are included. I guess that ABC doesn’t know how to use the Internet

  • Anonymous

    It’s just all about politics with some Dave…

  • Anonymous

    This is an example of what further detracts from the media’s credibility – unsubstantiated comments!

  • Anonymous

    Turns out the shooter was a Occupy Wall Streeter instead…. When is Obama going to direct Homeland Security to designate Occupy Wall Street as a terrorist organization??? Oh right, Obama needs their votes in November.. Nevermind!

  • Dave Darling

    Geezus H. Christ. What FREAKING difference does it make what political party this guy is a member of??? THAT’S the problem here. Not that he got it wrong. That someone thought this was significant in the first place!!! (and I say this as some who despises Tea Baggers, by the way)

  • Willie Jenkins

    Mlady, shut your skank ass libtard mouth up already. Your fucking deflections and whining doesn’t change the fact that you’re a dumb cunt.

  • RW

    the shooter was more than likely a Left Wing nut-job, a PHD and career College-Boy Student.  Probably an obama Voter, who lives in the surreal World of Academia, not the Real World.  Although a huge tragedy ,  more people are shot-killed EVERY weekend in Chicago, and other Liberal Cities, than this, yet the one-sided socialist mainstream News Media ignores this Fact. 

  • MLady

    But it doesn’t bother you that the reporter speculated that he was a registered Democrat?  Didn’t thinks so…

  • MLady

    But it doesn’t bother you that the reporter speculated that he was a registered Democrat?  Didn’t thinks so…

  • Anonymous

    Loser dropout in his early 20′s just screams occupy wallstreet. 

  • Daniel Lenz

    Brian Ross should be, at the least, demoted for his gross negligence in his job as a “responsible” journalist. Put him back on a desk where he can relearn how to do research. He shouldn’t be on a national news program.

  • Ethan Coder

    I really hope politics has anything to do with this on either side. If that’s the case it’ll just divide us further and this political environment already sucks! There is entirely to much crazy shit going on in this country, maybe we should all take a knee and drink some water.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to know if the weapon was from the “Fast and Furious” stockpile?

    …I’d like to see those documents Obama!

  • Howard Fogelson

    once again, the “in the bag for the liberal” media looks for any way it can to link any horrible event to conservatives, and once again, they are wrong. It sickens me that people who are supposed to report the truth, and verify their statements, again have used their political leanings to besmirch the name of the innocent. Will there be a retraction? NO! Would it matter if there was a retraction? NO! Again, thanks ABC and all of your “fair minded” colleagues in the main stream media for doing the wrong thing. This is a sample of why your credibility is nil and you are losing viewership and respect. Way to go!

  • Anonymous