Oh God, this is enough to send shattering chills down any journalist's spine:
The Los Angeles Times has acknowledged that it unwittingly relied on fabricated FBI documents, created by a con man, for a report that implicated associates of rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs in the 1994 shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur.The story's author, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Chuck Philips, said in a statement late yesterday: "In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job. I'm sorry." Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin also apologized, saying in a separate statement: "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."
But what's particularly interesting is how they were fooled--and how the hoax was caught.
The embarrassing admission came hours after a report by the Smoking Gun. The Web site, which specializes in law-enforcement records, said the Times "appears to have been hoaxed" by "an accomplished document forger" in its story last week tying Combs's associates to the non-fatal shooting of Shakur 12 years ago. .
William Bastone, the Smoking Gun's editor, said he immediately "thought something smelled" after looking at the FBI documents posted on the paper's Web site -- particularly the fact that they appeared to originate from a typewriter, although the bureau's agents switched to computers about 30 years ago.
The humiliation for the Times is 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.
I can't help but wonder if they weren't rooked by the Dan Rather fallout--if they didn't assume that a document which looked like it was typewritten was therefore more likely to be authentic.