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Stephanopoulos: Brian Ross’s zeal to connect Tea Party to Aurora shooting a ‘mistake made in good faith’

By Doug Powers  •  July 27, 2012 09:31 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

The president of ABC News and George Stephanopoulos have both given what can be best described as statements of regret regarding the so-called “mistake” made by Brian Ross that was in fact one of the most egregious examples of preconceived media malpractice in recent memory. First up, the head of ABC News:

ABC News opened its TCA press conference here Thursday with boasts of “Good Morning America” beating “Today” in recent ratings. Then came the apologies.

Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, addressed the on-air mistake by reporter Brian Ross, in which Ross suggested the alleged shooter might be a member of the Tea Party. (Turned out it was another person by the same name.)

“It was a mistake, we recognized it immediately, owned it immediately, Brian has reached out personally to the individual in Aurora. We have learned from it as an organization. I know that moment did not live up to the standards and practices of ABC News. The news division knows how displeased I am about it.”

How displeased was Sherwood?

No disciplinary action is planned for Ross.

Now that’s displeased! It’s a good thing Sherwood didn’t go from displeased to furious, or Ross would have had his newsroom coffee privileges suspended for a day.

Wildly hypothetical question: How fast would Ross have been fired if he’d have made the same “mistake” except the person he named had been a member of, say, CAIR or GLAAD? He would have been handed a pink slip on the air before the segment ended and faced revocation of his Dan Rather Junior Reporter’s Club membership. But Ross wouldn’t have made that mistake, which is why it was not a mistake — at least not in the “oops” sense of the word.

George Stephanopoulos, who tossed the “has some information that might be significant” softball to Ross that night, said the network did an awesome job of calling themselves out (but only after being mocked by Jon Stewart):

George Stephanopoulos, talking via satellite from New York with the “GMA” team, said there was no political motivation behind the mistake. “I think it was a mistake made in good faith. People are going to make mistakes in breaking news situations. The test of a good news organization is how you correct them, how transparent you are when it happens. By that test, we have succeeded.”

No political motivation? Ross probably found a couple dozen men named “James Holmes” in the area and just happened to pick the one from the Tea Party completely at random. Imagine the odds.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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