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FEATURE ARTICLE

 
LA TIMES APOLOGIZES FOR TUPAC , DIDDY STORY

 

Less than a day after TheSmokingGun.com reported that some of the documents used by Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter Chuck Philips to corroborate his bombshell story were faked by a notorious forger, the Los Angeles Times printed a lengthy apology today for its recent story on the 1994 attack on rapper Tupac Shakur.

 

The Times admitted that the March 17 piece was "partially based on documents that appear to have been fabricated." Both Philips and his supervisor, Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, issued statements of apology Wednesday afternoon for the story, which is reportedly the most-read item on the Times Web site this year, with more than 1 million hits.

"In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job," Philips said in a statement Wednesday.


"I'm sorry." Duvoisin added, "We should not have let ourselves be fooled. That we were is as much my fault as Chuck's. I deeply regret that we let our readers down." Also, Times Editor Russ Stanton announced that the paper would launch an internal review of the documents and the reporting surrounding the story, and that he took the criticisms of the article "very seriously."

"We published this story with the sincere belief that the documents were genuine, but our good intentions are beside the point," Stanton said in a statement. "The bottom line is that the documents we relied on should not have been used. We apologize both to our readers and to those referenced in the documents and, as a result, in the story. We are continuing to investigate this matter and will fulfill our journalistic responsibility for critical self-examination."


After the exposure of the seemingly phony documents, which the Smoking Gun said were dummied up by a small-time convicted forger and wannabe hip-hop player named James Sabatino, the Times now believes the "FBI records" cited by Philips in his controversial story were indeed faked. In the piece, Philips purported that rap manager Jimmy Rosemond and another promoter, identified as Sabatino, were behind the November 1994 ambush shooting of Shakur at a New York recording studio and that they had the rap star shot to earn points with Bad Boy Records boss Sean "Diddy" Combs.


Both Combs and Rosemond vehemently denied any involvement in the plot before and after the story's publication. In a letter to Times Publisher David Hiller, Combs' lawyer Howard Weitzman called the story inaccurate, according to the paper's mea culpa. Weitzman also expanded on his earlier demand for a retraction, adding that he believed the article met the legal standard for "actual malice," which means Combs would be able to sue for libel. Rosemond's lawyer has also threatened to file suit over the piece.


Weitzman issued a statement on the matter late Thursday afternoon that reads: "The Los Angeles Times' apology is, at best, a first step, but it doesn't undo the false and defamatory nature of the story, or the suspicion and innuendo that Mr. Combs has had to endure due to these untruthful allegations and the irresponsible conduct of this particular reporter. We have nothing further to say at this time."

 



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