Looks like all those superior layers and layers and layers of fact-checkers at the LA Times were sleep-deprived or something. Geez, Louise (hat tip: Patterico, who writes “This is very, very big. We’ll be hearing much more about this, you can count on that.”):
Los Angeles Times Editor Russ Stanton said today he will launch an internal investigation into the authenticity of documents used in a story last week asserting that the newspaper had uncovered new evidence implicating associates of rap impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs in a bloody 1994 assault on hip-hop superstar Tupac Shakur.
Stanton ordered the review after the editor of the celebrity-centric website, The Smoking Gun, told the newspaper that he had reason to doubt The Times’ account and in particular the FBI records that were supposed to buttress the story.
The website this morning posted a story saying the records — purportedly statements by an unnamed informant to an FBI agent, which the newspaper posted on its website — appeared to be forgeries. The Smoking Gun ( www.thesmokinggun.com ) said the documents seemed suspicious for multiple reasons, including the fact that they appeared to be written on a typewriter, rather than a computer, and included blacked-out sections not typically found in such documents.
Although The Times has not identified the source of the purported FBI reports, The Smoking Gun story asserts that they were created by convicted con man James Sabatino, who the website contends was a starry-eyed music fan with a long rap sheet and a history of exaggerating his place in the rap music world.
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 Times appears to have been hoaxed 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,” the report on the website says.
“Questions have been raised about the authenticity of documents that we relied on for a story on the assault of Tupac Shakur in New York,” Stanton said in a statement. “We are taking this very seriously and have begun our own investigation.”
The Times broke the story last week, saying that it had uncovered new details about the sensational 1994 beating and shooting of Shakur, an unsolved crime that fascinated many — even beyond the hip-hop community — because it triggered a long-running war between rival rap music factions.
Too good to check:
On one side of the violent feud were West Coast rappers including Shakur; on the other side were their East Coast rivals, personified by Christopher Wallace, better known as Notorious B.I.G.
The three assailants who attacked Shakur on Nov. 30, 1994, were never identified, and the crime remained a mystery. Less than two years later, the rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. And just six months after that, Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead in a Los Angeles drive-by. No one was charged in any of the attacks.
Last week’s Times story said the newspaper had uncovered new details lending credence to Shakur’s belief that associates of rap mogul Combs were behind the assault. The story said these unnamed associates committed the crime to curry favor with Combs and to punish Shakur for disrespecting them and rejecting their business overtures.
Combs and James Rosemond, a Combs associate and one of those implicated as planning the attack at Quad Recording Studios in New York City, had long denied any involvement in the crime.
“This story is beyond ridiculous and is completely false,” Combs said in a statement last week. “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.”
Following the posting of the article on latimes.com, Combs’ attorney, Howard Weitzman, sent a letter to The Times calling for a retraction and demanding that the paper hold the story out of its print edition. Weitzman expressed particular concern about the assertion, based on anonymous sources, that Combs had been told in advance that Shakur would be attacked.
The Times ran a shorter version of the story on the front of its March 19 Calendar section. The paper had not responded to the retraction demand as of Tuesday.
Yeah, the LATimes has a history of foot-dragging.
Add another entry to the “Why does the L.A. Times’ circulation continue to drop?” list.