L.A. Times Falls for Conman's Tupac Story

March 27, 2008 12:43 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Los Angeles Times apologized Wednesday for a recent article, apparently based on forged FBI documents, about the 1994 shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur.

30-Second Summary

Last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Chuck Philips published an article suggesting that Sean “Diddy” Combs was involved in the Nov. 30, 1994, shooting of Shakur.

That night at New York’s Quad Recording Studios, the rapper was beaten and shot several times by three men, an incident that, according to the Times, touched off the East-West rivalry that contributed to the deaths of Shakur and Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.

Combs and his attorney immediately denied the report, and yesterday Web site The Smoking Gun said the newspaper had been manipulated by a 31-year-old conman and federal inmate named James Sabatino. 

The Web site asserts that Sabatino not only lied to the paper about his rap industry ties, but actually forged many of the “FBI documents” upon which the article’s assertions rest.

For example, the site alleges that the suspect documents aren’t in the bureau’s own files, and that they contained numerous telltale misspellings and typos. As a result, Philips and Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin have both issued public apologies for the story. “In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job,” read Philips’ statement. “I’m sorry.”

For some, such as media critic Howard Kurtz, this incident recalls the CBS story about the National Guard service of President George W. Bush, which was aired just two months before the 2004 presidential election.

This story also joins a long line of hoaxes and scandals stretching throughout journalism’s history. In some cases, sources have fooled reporters, and in others, reporters have fabricated facts, quotes or even whole stories.

Headline Links: “The Times apologizes over article on rapper”

Reaction: ‘L.A. Times to Investigate Source of Story on Rapper’

Related: Hoaxes in journalism


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