Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TV coverage.
ABC News president Ben Sherwood and Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos spent this morning at the TCAs apologizing and then defending the network’s coverage in the wake of last week’s Colorado movie theater shooting, after a pair of incidents raised questions about its reporting. Sherwood was asked if the pressure to be first on the air with news may be leading to more errors being made at his news organization. “I challenge the assumption that more mistakes are being made,” he said. “All I can say is that ABC News takes the truth seriously.”
Sherwood denied that the network made any error in its characterization of the conversation reporter Matthew Mosk had the morning of the shooting with suspect James Holmes’ mother Arlene, whom the reporter had awakened with the news. Arlene Holmes’ response to the statement “You have the right person” was characterized as a comment about her son. But this week, she said through her attorney that she was referring to herself in terms of them reaching the “right person.” “It was obviously a very distressing situation for Mrs. Holmes,” Sherwood said. “But we stand behind our reporter’s characterization of what ensued in that conversation and his description of that conversation.”
Meanwhile, Sherwood and Stephanopoulos apologized for veteran reporter Brian Ross, who speculated on air that James Holmes was a Colorado Tea Party member after researching a “Jim Holmes” in the area. “It was a mistake, we recognized it immediately, we corrected it immediately, we responded to it immediately,” Sherwood said. “We know that that particular moment did not live up to the standards and practices of ABC News. I take responsibility for it. The buck stops with me. The news division knows how displeased I am with it, and we’re taking steps for something like that never to happen again”. Added Stephanopoulos: “We’re sorry about the mistake. We know that Brian is sorry about the mistake. I think it was a mistake made in good faith. Brian is an award-winning journalist who has gotten incredible scoops over the course of his career. This was a breaking news situation and people are going to take mistakes in those situations. The test of all news organizations is how they handle those mistakes and how transparent you are. By that test, I think Brian and ABC News succeeded. I don’t think there was any political motivation behind the mistake at all.”