Lawyer for Holmes’s mother: ABC took my quote about having “the right person” completely out of context; Update: ABC responds

posted at 7:21 pm on July 23, 2012 by Allahpundit

Via Politico, I’m tempted to say “unbelievable” but the original ABC story came from The Blotter, which is Brian Ross’s team. (He’s one of five reporters with a byline on the article, in fact.) If a guy’s so jacked to get a Big Scoop that he’d smear the tea party to do it, why wouldn’t he “finesse” a quote from the suspect’s mother to make it sound like a sensational admission to foreknowledge of his violent tendencies?

Or is this less a case of a reporter behaving unethically than a mother trying to protect her son by walking back a hugely damning, yet accurate, quotation? Here’s how the Blotter story began:

A California woman who identified herself as the mother of James Holmes, the 24-year-old man federal authorities said is the suspect in a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, told ABC News her son was likely the alleged culprit, saying, “You have the right person.”

The woman, contacted at her home in San Diego, spoke briefly with ABC News and immediately expressed concern her son may be involved in the shooting death of at least 12 people overnight.

“You have the right person,” she said, apparently speaking on gut instinct. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”

Now here’s what the lawyer said this afternoon:

To clarify a statement made by ABC media, I was awakened by a call from a reporter on 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. I asked him to tell me why he was calling, and he told me about a shooting in Aurora. 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.

Hard to imagine an innocent explanation for ABC’s account of the conversation if Holmes is telling the truth. If she said “you have the right person” in response to nothing more than a question about her identity, without the shooting having been mentioned yet, then there’s no way they could honestly take that as some sort of admission on her part as to his guilt. Either she’s misremembering the exact exchange (or lying, I guess) or else they did something egregious here. The best-case scenario is that the reporter assumed that she’d already heard about the shooting and took her “right person” comment in that context — but even then, there’d be no reason to think she was talking about his guilt rather than simply identifying herself. And needless to say, the reporter would have had a duty to follow up and press her to clarify so that there was no ambiguity on a quote that explosive. Did he/she? Did ABC record the conversation? I’m eager to hear how it really went down.

Exit quotation via Politico: “Sources tell POLITICO that on an editorial conference call this morning, ABC News SVP James Goldston said the network is taking steps to ensure that incorrect reports such as Ross’s do not happen again.”

Update: ABC says it didn’t happen the way Holmes says it did — and no, there’s no recording of the conversation:

ABC News phoned Arlene Holmes at 5am PST, at her home in San Diego, Calif., according to notes and email records by ABC News producer Matthew Mosk, who placed the call…

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.”

That contradicts Holmes’s claim that she didn’t know anything about the shooting before her “right person” comment — but even here, according to ABC’s own account, the quote is totally ambiguous. Was she saying that James Holmes was the “right person,” i.e. the shooter, or merely that she was his mother? Why did ABC leap to assume the former instead of the latter?


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

really, watch the lawyer again and count the times she does a weird mouth and lip licking thing, quite odd!

tm11999 on July 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM

I had to hold my hand up in front of my eyes during that press conference or otherwise look away and just listen after seeing her weird, ugly facial expressions.

What the heck was/is wrong with her mouth?!

At first I thought maybe she had “dry mouth” from being somewhat frightened in the face of all the media, but when it continued — those weird, ugly facial distortions of hers — throughout the entire press conference, yeegaads, was awful.

Lourdes on July 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

ABC is certainly ENCOURAGING a “it’s a conspiracy” reactions.

They’re doing just about everything, along with other Democrats (is there any doubt about ABC’s direction at this point), to WRITE THE STORY instead of report the story. And I do mean from the very outset of the story, like, say, two minutes after the bullets stopped.

Lourdes on July 24, 2012 at 10:53 AM

To bad Newsroom won’t be on the air in four years, this would be a great episode. Sorkin could write a great rant for Daniels, he would have to change ABC to FOX of course but I can hear the self righteousness pouring out of Daniels yap, chastising the evil FOX Network for their rush to judgement and shoddy journalism. Ratings gold baby.

lowandslow on July 23, 2012 at 7:33 PM

News Room script to soon appear: “you’re getting a raise not because you’re a great reporter but because you found a Tea Partyn hacker in our files, shuffling the names and dates around and…”

Lourdes on July 24, 2012 at 10:56 AM

I like that she and her lawyer didn’t schedule the press conference until after they found out there was no tape of the call. That makes it look suspiciously like a walkback.

GWB on July 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM

I believe her. ABC News is no longer credible because they’ve got political hacks, like Stephanopolous and Ross, masguerading as anchormen and journalists. I hope ABC and NBC News’ practices are exposed on a daily basis. They are laughable.

lea on July 24, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Not sure if this has already been said, but there’s a big problem with how ABC is presenting this. First, the call came to Mrs. Holmes around 5 am, which would have made it around 8 am Eastern time. Brian Ross was reporting about Jim Holmes being a member of the Tea Party at 8:17 am according to a clip at Politico. If the call to Mrs. Holmes came from The Blotter which is Brian Ross’ team, wouldn’t he have known they were going to be calling Mrs. Holmes about her 24-year-old son?

moonsbreath on July 24, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Don’t tell me it surprises you that ABC….”bends the truth again”….If you ever tune into ABC for the news….YOU ARE AS BAD AS THEM….watch a football game OK, but never the NEWS……

nonstopca on July 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM

First, how can any legitimate reporter call someone up this important and not record the conversation? That’s BS, they recorded it, it just doesn’t fit their defense so it suddenly isn’t recorded.
One of the most important phone calls this journalist probably ever made, after extensive research, and it wasn’t recorded…sure, I don’t think I buy that line.

right2bright on July 24, 2012 at 12:30 PM

What the heck was/is wrong with her mouth?!

At first I thought maybe she had “dry mouth” from being somewhat frightened in the face of all the media, but when it continued — those weird, ugly facial distortions of hers — throughout the entire press conference, yeegaads, was awful.

Lourdes on July 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Maybe she has the same condition that made Anita Dunn lick her lips constantly, Tardive Dyskinesia.

I still think she’s hot.

UltimateBob on July 24, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Lourdes on July 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

The mother is a victim as much as anyone else. Please do not start making fun of her simply because her son is evil. Why on earth would you believe a word of what ABC says. The way she tells the story, it makes sense. The way ABC tells the story, it doesn’t make sense unless you believe this mother had knowledge ahead of time that this horrible monster was going to kill people.

katablog.com on July 24, 2012 at 6:53 PM

The mother may be trying to help her son, because there will be a trial and it sounds very bad, so she has a powerful reason to lie…on the other hand its ABC, whose stock in trade is deception?

sharrukin on July 23, 2012 at 7:34 PM

How does that help the evil monster. Whether mom thinks he did or didn’t do it or has no clue – all of that is not germane. She’s not an expert. The only time her “thoughts” would be admissible is if HE TOLD her something to this affect or had done something like this before.

There’s no way Mother’s denial or admission would help/hurt evil boy.

katablog.com on July 24, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I believe her for the following reasons:
1) it is undisputed that the call occurred at the a55crack of dawn, so she was likely groggy and wondering, “what are you talking about?”
2) ABC is not credible, and the reporter belonged to Ross’s investigative team.
3) what kind of person sandbags their son by saying, “you have the right person?” as meaning him. If she was so sure, why hadn’t she taken precautions and had her son committed? It doesn’t make sense.
4) You have the right person…I need to call the police makes more sense if she is saying, “I am she and I need to find out what the hell is going on here.”

jpferman on July 24, 2012 at 9:38 PM

I like that she and her lawyer didn’t schedule the press conference until after they found out there was no tape of the call. That makes it look suspiciously like a walkback.

GWB on July 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM

Funny how ABC didn’t bother to respond until they found out there was no recording of the conversation. Sorry, I’m more inclined to believe the mother than the network, which has a proven track record of distorting truth.

Durka-Durka on July 25, 2012 at 1:04 PM

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