The Los Angeles Times already apologized for a front-page story that implicated Sean "Diddy" Combs in the 1994 New York shooting of late rapper Tupac Shakur. On Monday (April 7), the paper retracted the story entirely, admitting that writer Chuck Philips relied on fake FBI documents to build his flawed report.
The retraction came three weeks after the paper's Web site published a story by Philips — a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who has frequently investigated and reported on the murders of Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. — titled "An Attack on Tupac Shakur Launched a Hip-Hop War," which alleged that associates of Combs' had arranged the shooting of Shakur at a New York recording studio after the rapper had turned down offers to join Combs' Bad Boy Records label.
In Monday's retraction, the Times reported that Philips' story and the related faked documents have been removed from the paper's site because the article "relied heavily on information that the Times no longer believes to be credible."
Combs told MTV News last week that the Times story and the attendant press coverage "just really hurt." He vehemently denied any involvement in the Shakur shooting from the moment the story was published.
A week after Philips' article ran, TheSmokingGun.com revealed that the documents Philips used to build elements of his story appeared to have been faked by a noted forger and hip-hop player wannabe, James Sabatino, who is currently in prison on charges of wire fraud and racketeering. The paper issued an apology for the story on March 27, but the other man implicated in Philips' story, New York hip-hop manager Jimmy Rosemond, who also stridently proclaimed his innocence, told MTV in an interview that he would like to see Philips fired. (Diddy isn't calling for such measures.)
Rosemond's attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, who had threatened legal action following the publication of the original story, said in a statement released Monday on behalf of his client: "We're pleased that the L.A. Times has gone further in admitting that not only were the FBI reports fake which implicated Mr. Rosemond but that the underlying claims about his involvement in the assault on Tupac were fake as well. We hope that in the future the Times recognizes that fabricating scurrilous accusations in an effort to sell newspapers completely undermines their credibility and guarantees that any profits made from selling such garbage will be disgorged in litigation."
"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 paper explained in the retraction. Along with retracting the front-page Web story from March 17 and a shorter version that appeared in the actual paper on March 19, the Times also retracted the text of two online chats that Philips participated in on March 18 and March 25, and comments from the Times' Soundboard blog from March 21. (In addition to the online chats, Philips also defended his story in an interview with MTV News.)
After an internal investigation into the report, the Times said it now believes Sabatino forged the FBI reports and "concocted his role in the assault, as well as his supposed relationships with Combs [and] Rosemond." As a result, the paper specifically retracted all the statements in the article and the Web posts that suggested that Rosemond and Sabatino "orchestrated or played any role in the assault on Shakur or that they lured him into an ambush at the Quad Studios. ... To the extent these publications could be interpreted as creating the impression that Combs was involved in arranging the attack, the Times wishes to correct that misimpression, which was neither stated in the article nor intended."
The paper also apologized for mistakenly reporting that Rosemond has served prison time for drug-dealing and was convicted in 1996 of drug offenses, although Rosemond did admit to MTV News last month that at some point during the mid-1990s, "I was [in prison] dealing with some legal issues I had." He declined to elaborate further.