The Times Takes The Rap

The Los Angeles Times published a retraction April 7th of recent stories that implied purported associates of hip-hop mogul Sean Combs assaulted Tupac Shakur in 1994 and that Combs knew about it in advance.

Attorneys for Combs had demanded an apology and retraction, and have gotten both. The Times said the March 17th online story and a shorter printed version March 19th relied heavily on what turned out to be phony FBI documents. Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer Chuck Philips wrote the stories.

"The Times has since concluded that the FBI reports were fabricated and that some of the other sources relied on – including the person Philips previously believed to be the ‘confidential source’ cited in the FBI reports – do not support major elements of the story," the newspaper said.

The Smoking Gun posted an article March 26th challenging the veracity of the documents and naming jailed rap world wannabe James Sabatino as the source. It also provided evidence suggesting the documents were fake.

The Times posted an article on its Web site the same day, saying the authenticity of the documents and story had been challenged. The newspaper offered a front-page story the next day that reported it had been the victim of a hoax and apologizing for its error.

In a statement, Times editor Russ Stanton did not address why the newspaper published the retraction in addition to the previous apology.

"The Los Angeles Times has taken this matter very seriously," he said. "The retraction that appears in the paper and on our Web site today, and the previously published apology, speak for themselves."

Combs has denied that he had any prior knowledge of or involvement in the robbery and shooting of Shakur. He claimed he had been defamed by the newspaper.