It seems that ABC News cannot catch a break in their reporting on the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Now, on top of their unsubstantiated speculation that the shooter, James Holmes, may have had ties to the Tea Party, the mother of suspected gunman James Holmes says the network misquoted her on the morning of the shooting.
Readers who have been following the story will recall how most major news sources reported that Holmes' mother, Arlene, had said "You have the right person" when asked about suspected shooter James Holmes. The implication was that Holmes' mother had known, almost prima facie, that her son was the shooter.
It's a tragic story. But Monday, Arlene Holmes's attorney took to a podium to allege that, in fact, she had not meant to refer to her son, but instead to herself, with the statement of "you have the right person." As to whether that James Holmes was the shooter, Mrs. Holmes said she refused to offer comment that he was "the right person" since she wasn't even sure it was her son. Watch part of Holmes's statement below (via her attorney):
Partial transcript follows, courtesy of Politico:
This statement is to clarify a statement made by ABC media. I was awakened by a call from a reporter by ABC on July 20 about 5:45 in the morning. I did not know anything about a shooting in Aurora at that time.[....]
He asked if I was Arlene Holmes and if my son was James Holmes who lives in Aurora, Colorado. I answered yes, you have the right person. I was referring to myself.[...]
He asked for a comment. I told him I could not comment because I did not know if the person he was talking about was my son, and I would need to find out.
Now, obviously it is possible that the reporter misheard Ms. Holmes' statement over the phone. It could even be that she is changing her tone to help her son's defense (it doesn't bode well if she immediately knew her son was capable of something so horrific). However, given that the reporter asked for a statement, and didn't get one, the story is suspicious at bare minimum. And if it was a mistake by ABC, it is certainly poor form to fabricate a story out of an innocuous quote, and might make one wonder about ABC's standards, especially given their existing pattern of leaping to conclusions regarding this story.
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This story has been updated with additional information.
According to Mediaite, ABC is standing by its report and that producer Matthew Mosk explained the conversation:
Mosk said today that he awoke Arlene Holmes and informed her that a man, he believed was her son had been arrested in Aurora and asked to confirm their relationship.
“You have to tell me what happened… You have to tell me what happened,” the woman on the phone said, according to Mosk. Mosk said he told her that ABC News had learned the 24-year-old had been identified by police as the lone suspect in the mass killing in Aurora, Colo and that the details of the events were still taking shape.
“You have the right person,” was her response, he said. “I need to call the police. I need to fly to Colorado.”
ABC's report on the issue also says that the family's attorney called ABC shortly before the press conference to ask if they recorded the phone call:
Just prior to the press conference, Damiani contacted ABC News to determine whether there existed a recording of the pre-dawn conversation between Mosk and her client, according to Mosk.
One hour after learning there was no audio recording, Damiani held the conference and read Arlene Holmes' statement.