Ben Sherwood was critical of reporter Brian Ross. (ABC )
ABC News President Ben Sherwood said reporter Brian Ross' speculation that James Holmes, the suspect in the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., could be linked to the tea party "did not live up to the standards and practices of ABC News."
"We put something on the air that we did not know to be true and the part that we needed to be true was not germane to the story we were covering," Sherwood told reporters at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. "This was an unfortunate mistake," he said, adding that the network was taking steps to make sure it does not happen again, although he declined to say specifically what those steps were.
"Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos, who was chatting with Ross on the network when the reporter speculated about Holmes' political affiliation, said he was sorry about the mistake.
"This was a breaking news situation and people are going to make mistakes," Stephanopoulos said via satellite to reporters.
Sherwood said that Ross has privately reached out to the Jim Holmes he mistakenly linked to the shooting to apologize as well.
While Sherwood apologized for Ross' goof, he stood by reporter Mark Mosk, who was accused by the shooter's mother Arlene Holmes of taking a quote from her out of context.
At issue is whether, when she said "you have the right person," she was referring to herself or her son. She said she was referring to herself and ABC positioned the quote as her referring to her son. The distinction is important because if she was speaking of her son, the implication is that she was aware that he may have had problems that led to his allegedly committing the shooting rampage.
"We stand by Matt’s characterization of what happened during the conversation," Sherwood said.
The questions surrounding the network's coverage of the Aurora shooting during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" last week took away some of the glee ABC News is feeling about the performance of "Good Morning America," which battling NBC's"Today" for breakfast show bragging rights.
Having already ended "Today's" 16-year streak in terms of viewers, "Good Morning America" last week tied NBC in the coveted 25-54 age demographic. Last week, "Good Morning America" had 4.6 million viewers compared to 4.2 million for NBC. It was the first time in 17 years that "Good Morning America" could claim a first-place finish in both viewers and adults 25-54.
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