Too fast on the draw: news media once again smears and endangers an innocent man
As I was driving to work yesterday morning I listened to the early news reports about the Aurora, CO massacre. When I got to my desk I pulled out my phone and put a quick update on my Facebook wall saying:
Just heard about the Aurora, CO shootings this morning. I know it’s tempting to try to draw early conclusions but let’s wait for the investigation. In the meantime, I offer my prayers for those killed and injured.
I hoped that people wouldn’t try to use this tragedy to push various political agenda – or at least wait a decent interval – but I wasn’t holding out much hope. But more to the point, I was trying to warn people not to assume things or get out in front of the facts. The most egregious offenders of that little maxim are, ironically, the news media who fall all over themselves to report something – anything – about incidents like this. After the January shootings in Tucson, AZ where Rep. Gabby Giffords was wounded and 6 people killed there was a mad rush on the Left and in the news media to blame conservatives, and particularly the Tea Party, for the violence. On the basis of absoutely no evidence whatsoever, the shooter was supposed to be a member of those groups and an adherent to conservative thought.
That was 100%, completely, false. Didn’t stop them from jumping to the conclusion.
In the immediate firestorm that launched over the Zimmerman/Martin shooting in Florida, members of the news media and the Left started announcing the addresses of people living in the area with the name “George Zimmerman.” Spike Lee’s infamously wrong mass tweet forced an innocent couple out of their own home and into hiding for fear of their safety. The news media reported on Lee’s findings, amplifying the mistake and it wasn’t the only example of someone wrongly accused on the basis of nothing more than someone Googling Zimmerman’s name. “Irresponsible” is the kindest thing you can call that.
So what did they do yesterday? Brian Ross of ABC News, doing the exact same boneheaded, reckless thing as in the Tucson shooting and the Zimmerman case, got onto Google and ID’d a man who happened to have the same name as the evil bastard who shot up the movie theater.
As the name of the suspect, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, first emerged Friday morning, Ross reported on ABC News that he’d found a web page for a “Jim Holmes” on a Colorado Tea Party site.
“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,” Ross reported.
He added: “Now we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo.”
No, “we” didn’t know. We didn’t know a damned thing, but that didn’t matter to Ross. He found a guy with that name who was linked to the Tea Party and BINGO! we have a winner! After all, it has to be him, right? We all know these violent, gun-clinging Tea Partiers are seen all the time committing mass murder, right? Never mind that every single time that linkage has been attempted by members of the news media it’s turned out to be dead wrong. Let’s run that baby!
Do you have any idea how many people are named “Richard James?” Google that and you’ll get 46 million hits. And not a damn one of them on the 1st page have anything to do with me. (Google “Ric James” and you get 108 million, fancy that.)
Disgusting. Ross’s and ABC’s actions as they were getting called on it – when a simple examination of the facts revealed that this particular James Holmes was not the person police had in custody – only added insult to the injury. At first, the waved off the colossal error in reporting saying that the report had been “incorrect.” When the anger started to mount as the public became aware of this blatant smear job, ABC issued a statement saying both ABC News and Brian Ross “apologize for the mistake and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.”
I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough this time. Over and over the news media jump wildly at every chance to make some villanous murderer the proof that the Tea Party or conservatives in general are despicable entities. That or they try to paint someone who does show some kind of adherence to conservative ideals as having racist motives at heart in anything they do. Enough. It’s clear that reporters like Ross have no desire or incentive to take reasonable care in reporting the facts and not engaging in agenda-based propagandizing. And people like that shouldn’t be in the reporting business. ABC should step up and do a little policing of their own industry. Brian Ross needs to be let go and it should be made clear why he’s being fired. He’s being fired because he let biases color his reporting and because he displayed no care at all in making sure what he was reporting was factual and pertinent. Mr. Holmes – the wrongly accused one – had to shut of his phone to avoid being barraged with angry people and he was worried for the safety of his family. Ross and ABC are responsible for that and they should be the ones paying the price for it.