Veteran Los Angeles Times reporter Chuck Philips and his editor, Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, issued statements of apology for the story that linked Sean Combs to the murder of Tupac Shakur based in part on fabricated documents. "I now believe the truth here is that I got duped. For this, I take full responsibility and I apologize," said Philips, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter. The Smoking Gun posted details earlier today showing that the purported FBI documents appeared to be fake, and traced them to a con man who may have produced the forgeries while in prison. Posted tonight at LATimes.com:
"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."
In his statement, 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."
Times Editor Russ Stanton announced that the newspaper would launch an internal review of the documents and the reporting surrounding the story. Stanton said he took the criticisms of the March 17 report "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."
It's not the first time that Philips' reporting on the murders of Shakur and fellow rapper Biggie Smalls has become controversial. First test for Stanton — the quick, decisive statement today is interesting. Be even more interesting to see what he does next.
* Morning updates:
"Reminiscent of the black eye that CBS received for using what the network presented as National Guard records in Dan Rather's 2004 report on President Bush's military service," says Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post.
Howard Weitzman says Times was told of errors. Editor & Publisher
Posting documents on Web sites opens the door to increased scrutiny. E&P