By NIKKI FINKE AND MIKE FLEMINGBREAKING…UPDATED: Tony Scott’s widow Donna has told police that the famed filmmaker/TV producer did not have brain cancer, informed insiders tell Deadline. That makes erroneous this morning’s Good Morning America report that he “had inoperable brain cancer” and quoting “a source close to him”. The ABC claim was widely picked up by media outlets globally and all the Hollywood press (but not Deadline) as the reason why Scott committed suicide Sunday by jumping off a Los Angeles County bridge at 12:35 PM. Within half an hour ABC was backing off its story (see below). This is the third time in a month that ABC News has erroneously reported on a sensitive news story. During the Aurora movie theater shooting tragedy, ABC News first claimed the gunman was a Tea Party member which was not true. And then the shooter’s mother accused ABC News of mischaracterizing a quote from her. The issues all seem the same: ABC News is not properly vetting its reporting.
Around 6:30 PM, a half-hour after Deadline corrected the ABC morning report, ABC News put out this new headline, “Tony Scott Brain Cancer Report Appears in Doubt” and this new text backing off its story:
“The family of director Tony Scott, who died Sunday after jumping off a Los Angeles bridge, was not aware Scott had cancer, Los Angeles County Coroner Ed Winter told ABC News station KABC in Los Angeles. ABC News was unable to reach Scott’s family to confirm the coroner’s statement. ABC News had reported the director of films such as Top Gun, Days of Thunder, and Crimson Tide had inoperable brain cancer, citing a source close to Scott.”
On the Aurora shooter’s identity, ABC ran this correction: An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.
Also during the Aurora tragedy, ABC News rushed out with a story quoting the shooter’s mother Arlene Holmes as saying: “You have the right person.” The media outlet said she was referring to her son. But Holmes through her attorney said later: ”I was awakened by a call from a reporter by 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.”
Meanwhile, Lt Fred Corral with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office tells Deadline that an autopsy was completed today on the 68-year-old Scott, but the cause of death was deferred pending toxicological and other tests. The results will take 4 to 8 weeks. The Coroner’s Office Craig Harvey also tells Deadline that his office is in possession of “part of a suicide note” found in Scott’s black Prius car found at the scene of the suicide. Harvey says “multiple” notes were found.The contents have not been made public. Harvey also said the Coroner’s Office will not be releasing any of that information at this time.