ABC News correspondent Brian Ross suggested Friday morning during a broadcast of Good Morning America that James Holmes, the primary suspect in the shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, may have a connection to the Tea Party.
There's 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 told anchor George Stephanopoulos. Now, we don't know if this is the same Jim Holmes. But it's Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.
As of 9:30 a.m. EDT, ABC News was the only network or cable news channel to draw a possible connection between the Tea Party and the shooter, Dylan Byers reported for Politico, although they did not verify that the two individuals were one and the same.
Ross' report triggered strong responses from right-wing media outlets.
Joel Pollak of the conservative news site Brietbart.com accused ABC News of scapegoating, writing: How interesting that Ross and ABC News should think to look to the Tea Party website first -- and to broadcast politically volatile information without verifying if that 'Jim Holmes' is the same as the suspect. ... Look for more scapegoating from the mainstream media and the Democrats in the hours and days to follow.
Meanwhile, the Drudge Report linked to Byers' original article with the headline ABC News Already Linking 'Tea Party'?
The politicization of this issue has drawn a parallel to last year's shootings in Tucson, Ariz., by Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people and wounded 14 others, included now-retired U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. At the time of the shooting, Giffords was on Sarah Palin's notorious target list, sparking fierce criticism by Palin's political opponents for inciting violent discourse in her rhetoric. Palin herself expressed a distaste for violence at the time, condemning journalists and pundits for starting a blood libel in their attempt to apportion blame for the shooting. But, as Howard Kurtz wrote the day of the Tucson shootings on the Daily Beast, I hate to say this, but the blame game is already under way.
Any incident of mass shootings necessarily takes on a political dimension given the contentiousness of gun politics in the U.S., but the connection with the Tea Party here is more attenuated and circumstantial (if it is, indeed, ultimately verified) than was even the case with Sarah Palin's plea for her supporters to reload rather than retreat.
Stop, everyone just stop, Jared Keller of Bloomberg tweeted in response to Byers' original story. Didn't we go through the speculation on politics and ideology with Jared Lee Loughner? he continued. He was just some nut. For f--ks sake, just stop.
Several hours after running the original story, ABC News apologized for the report, saying the information was incorrect and not properly vetted, according to Politico.