Times Apology For Tupac Story

Los Angeles Times reporter Chuck Philips and deputy managing editor Marc Duvoisin issued apologies March 26th for a Times story that was partially based on documents that appear to have been fabricated and implicated associates of Sean "Diddy" Combs in a 1994 assault on Tupac Shakur.

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

Duvoisin said, "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."

Times Editor Russ Stanton said that the newspaper would conduct an internal review of the documents used as sources and the reporting of the story, according to the Times. The story first appeared March 17th on the Times’ Web site under the headline, "An Attack on Tupac Shakur Launched a Hip Hop War."

"The bottom line is that the documents we relied on should not have been used," Stanton said. "We apologize both to our readers and to those referenced in the documents … and in the story. We are continuing to investigate this matter and will fulfil our journalistic responsibility for critical self-examination."

Stanton initially ordered an internal investigation to determine the authenticity of documents used in the story after the editor of TheSmokingGun.com told the Times he had reason to doubt the validity of the FBI records that were supposed to back up the story.

The Smoking Gun said the documents raised suspicion because they appeared to be written on a typewriter instead of a computer, included blacked-out sections not typically found in such documents and for other reasons.

The Smoking Gun claims the documents were created by convicted con man James Sabatino, described as a music fan with a history of exaggerating his place in the rap music world.

Without identifying Sabatino as its source, the Times reported that "the purported FBI reports were filed by Sabatino with a federal court in Miami four months ago in connection with a $16 million lawsuit he filed against Combs. Sabatino, who is serving time in prison for fraud, claims he is due the money for a business deal gone bad."

The Smoking Gun, however, contends that the Times was duped "by an imprisoned con man and accomplished document forger, an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries."

Combs denies that he had any prior knowledge of or involvement in the 1994 robbery and shooting of Shakur at a New York City recording studio.

"This story is beyond ridiculous and is completely false," Combs said in a statement quoted by the Times. "Neither Biggie [Notorious B.I.G] nor I had any knowledge of any attack before, during or after it happened. It is a complete lie to suggest that there was any involvement by Biggie or myself. I am shocked that the Los Angeles Times would be so irresponsible as to publish such a baseless and completely untrue story."

Philips, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has written extensively on the rap wars that led to the killings of both Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., had publicly defended his latest article, citing the FBI records The Smoking Gun now claims are forgeries.

The 1994 shooting triggered the celebrated feud between East and West Coast rappers that led to the killings of Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.