George Stephanopoulos is the anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America." So doesn't the buck stop with him and with the show's producers for what happened Friday morning? Using the scantest of circumstantial evidence, investigative reporter Brian Ross chose to use the horrific massacre in Aurora, Colorado, to create an anti-Tea Party narrative with this smear:
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.
But if you look at what Stephanopoulos said before and after Ross's appalling "reporting," it's safe to assume Stephanopoulos knew what was coming:
Stephanolpoulos: 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.
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.
Stephanolpoulos: Okay, we'll keep looking at that. Brian Ross, thanks very much.
You can view the video below. Not only does Stephanopoulos tee up the Ross smear by claiming it "might be significant;" afterwards he doesn't sound in the least surprised by what Ross says.
It's impossible to imagine Ross not going to Stephanopoulos and at least some of the show's producers before dropping this bomb on the air -- which means they cleared and were okay with it.
So why is Ross the only one under fire here? Anchors are in charge of their shows, as are producers. Not in charge are correspondents like Ross.
Okaying this smear for broadcast is every bit as wrong and irresponsible as speaking it.
Ross is the shiny object currently being used to distract us from others who are likely just as responsible as Ross -- namely ABC News' "matinee idol" George Stephanopoulos.
Stephanopoulos needs to explain himself, as do the show's producers. Either Ross threw this unforgivable smear out to the world unilaterally or Stephanopoulos and the show's producers deserve the same condemnations and penalties Ross will and should face.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC