When it comes to integrity and journalistic ethics, Breitbart News ranks somewhere between the National Enquirer and the Tehran Times. It makes Fox News look like PBS. And they can be expected to sink to ever greater depths of depravity when a story emerges that permits them to dial up the sensationalism and political rhetoric to eye-bleeding levels. The tragic Dark Knight shooting in Aurora, Colorado, was such a story.
On the morning after the shootings all the news networks were engaged in an endlessly repetitious barrage of a limited set of facts and a boundless pool of speculation. It didn’t matter what channel you turned to, you would hear the same recitation of the number of fatalities and injuries, interviews with frightened witnesses, and reminiscences of Columbine. Consequently, there was a determined effort on the part of the reporters to uncover something – anything – that was new or interesting.
In the course of their investigation, ABC News discovered that there was a man associated with the Aurora Tea Party who had the same name as the shooting suspect. They prematurely reported that fact without first verifying whether they were the same person.
George Stephanopoulos: I’m going to go to Brian Ross. You’ve been investigating the background of Jim Holmes here. You found something that might be significant.
Brian Ross: There’s a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes. But it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.
Stephanopoulos: Okay, we’ll keep looking at that. Brian Ross, thanks very much.
ABC quickly corrected the report, but not before enduring some withering, and deserved, criticism. And it should be noted that, from the start, they acknowledged that all they had was speculation and that they were continuing to investigate. That’s not a proper justification, but it’s also not the same as making an outright accusation, which is what much of the right-wing media is saying.
Breitbart News leapt on this misstep with an article falsely charging “HUMILIATION: ABC News Tries To Blame Tea Party.” There was no attempt on the part of ABC News to blame anyone. They were following a lead and went to air before affirming it, but that’s not an assertion of blame. Breitbart’s column, by the notoriously addle-brained Joel Pollak, goes into hysterics over what he believes is an outrageous insult to his favorite extremist fringe group.
However, what makes Pollak’s pompous theatrics all the more ludicrous is that he immediately perpetrated the very same crime to which he took so much offense.
Pollak’s article very directly accused the shooter of being a registered Democrat. He rambled through a list of supposed evidence that he never bothered to authenticate and arrived at a conclusion that he deemed certifiable. The only problem is that he was completely wrong – a state of being with which he must be comfortable by now. As it turns out, Pollak also had the wrong guy and the the suspect was not registered to vote at all.
So after castigating ABC for reporting incorrect information, Breitbrat Pollak did the same thing but took over five hours to make a correction. And even that was a weaselly effort that sought to explain away his incompetence by claiming that there was new information. Also, unlike ABC, Pollak included no apology for his gross error and slander of Democrats. But then that’s the sort of unprincipled, pseudo-reporting that is the hallmark of the Breitbart legacy.