Had the suspected gunman who allegedly killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater been collecting unemployment insurance?
A wire story distributed by The New York Times News Service said James Holmes had been receiving unemployment insurance, citing "a federal law enforcement official." That piece of information did not appear in the story that ran in the Times itself, but it did land in several other wire stories.
The news also made headlines on blogs. "Holmes didn't build his arsenal, Obama did," said InfoWars.com, a site that propagates conspiracy theories. "All over TV they’re saying we need to ban guns as they enabled his attack, but where are the calls to ban welfare which enabled him to buy his guns?"
"Yes, courtesy of you and me, James Holmes was collecting money from unemployment and living comfortably," said a story on the anti-Obama site Nobama.com. "He was able to pursue his weird interests because he had all the time in the world on his hands."
The Huffington Post was unable to confirm whether Holmes actually received jobless benefits. A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said the department can't divulge information about who receives insurance, citing privacy reasons.
To be eligible for unemployment benefits in Colorado, Holmes would have to have been laid off through no fault of his own and have earned at least $2,500 from work during four of the previous five quarters. But did Holmes ever have a job?
But according to McDonald's, that's not true. "Based on our information, the individual has never been employed by a company-owned or franchised McDonald's restaurant," company spokeswoman Julie Pottebaum said in an email.
Holmes graduated with honors from University of California-Riverside in 2010 and enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver's graduate program in neurosciences in June 2011. The university said he had been in the process of withdrawing before the shooting occurred.
Holmes had received a grant from the National Institutes of Health that gives students a "$21,600 stipend per year in 12 monthly installments to help defray living expenses while they pursue their academic research training experience," according to an NIH spokesperson.