ABC News President Ben Sherwood said, in the wake of errors in and disputes over his network’s coverage of the shootings at The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado, his network had no immediate plans to change standards and practices, but would look at how to make sure staff followed them in tense breaking news situations.
Sherwood faced sharp questioning from the Television Critics Association at a presentation in California on Thursday about Brian Ross’s initial report that a man who shared the name of the accused shooter was a member of a Tea Party group, and about reports that ABC News had mischaracterized the reaction of the suspect’s mother when she was called for comment about his involvement. In the former case, the James Holmes Ross identified as a Tea Party member was not the same James Holmes who will be tried for the murders of twelve people at an Aurora theater. And Holmes’ mother has suggested that her remarks to ABC News that “Yes, you’ve got the right person,” were meant to confirm that she was, in fact, his mother, not to indicate that she believed it likely that her son would have committed the crimes of which he is accused.
Sherwood said that Ross has personally apologized to the man he misidentified on-air, but said that he would not be suspended, sanctioned or formally reprimanded, though Sherwood said “I had a very serious and stern conversation with him, and I can assure you that Brian feels sick about this.”
And Sherwood was reluctant to directly address whether the network would judge Holmes’ political affiliations, if any prove to exist, relevant to their coverage of the story.