Simply as a matter of journalistic craft, the report was appallingly shoddy. Ross pointed the finger at an innocent man based on nothing but the coincidence of a common name and the man’s residence in the same city of 325,000 where the crime took place.
Let us amend that. There was one other factor, and this is what makes the ABC error not just amateurish but sinister: the innocent Jim Holmes’s involvement with the Tea Party. For more than three years liberal journalists have falsely portrayed the Tea Party as racist and potentially violent. After the January 2011 mass shooting in Tuscon, Ariz., speculation immediately began that the suspect was a Tea Partier. Even after it was proved that he was not, the New York Times published a despicable editorial blaming conservatives anyway.
Ross and ABC were out on this limb alone. Either other journalists learned their lesson from Tucson, or it didn’t occur to them to look for a political motive this time (it was a more plausible hypothesis in a shooting that targeted a politician).
It is reasonable to interpret Ross’s hasty unsubstantiated report as an expression of hostility–bigotry–toward the Tea Party and those who share its values, which are traditional American ones. ABC’s carelessness here is in sharp contrast with the way the mainstream media treat criminal suspects who are black or Muslim. In those cases they take great pains not to perpetuate stereotypes, sometimes at the cost of withholding or obscuring relevant facts such as the physical description of a suspect who is still at large or the ideological motive for a crime.
Oikophobia is no less invidious than other forms of bigotry.
True, though Brian Ross probably can’t spell it.