Newspaper Apologizes for Shakur Story

The L.A. Times is acknowledging problems in a story it published last week. Reporter Chuck Phillips alleged in his piece that Sean "Puffy" Combs had advance knowledge of plans to attack Tupac Shakur.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We're news, information, and a bucket of KFC. I'm Alison Stewart.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Finger-licking good. And I'm Rachel Martin. It's Thursday, March 27th, 2008. Ali, I have a secret confession.

STEWART: What did you have for breakfast, Rachel Martin?

MARTIN: Not so secret. I was just in the kitchen and I opened the fridge and saw this huge bucket of KFC, which really surprised me, I've got to be honest, and I just thought then and there, that's it, I'm doing it. I'm having a chicken wing for breakfast.

STEWART: It made me laugh so hard when I saw that giant bucket of KFC in the NPR refrigerator, right next to my rice milk, somebody else's organic low-fat milk, the Greek yogurt of choice, various granolas, and a big...

MARTIN: It's all about balance, yin and yang.

STEWART: They ordered KFC for lunch yesterday, and someone asked me, hey, Ali, you want in on this? And before I said - I said no, not really, and he goes, makes a baby strong. Fried chicken makes a baby strong. The weirdest thing someone has said to me through my entire pregnancy.

MARTIN: You didn't buy it, though.

STEWART: That belonged to Dan Pashman, by the way, who had it out there.

MARTIN: Who had fried chicken at his wedding, so Dan knows his finger-licking goodness.

STEWART: Coming up this hour on Bryant Park, we're going to delve into some of the details of that enormous ice shelf breaking off. It happened in Antarctica, if and when we can expect more of this to happen.

MARTIN: Also, the Girl Scouts. You know them. You love them. You like their cookies. They're making themselves over. They want you to associate them with more than just their fabulous cookies, and they've hired their first-ever chief marketing officer. We're going to talk with her coming up.

STEWART: And we'll talk with a slow traveler, a very slow traveler. This fellow likes to take his time and do it right. Ed Gillespie decided he would take a trip around the world using the power of bikes, animals and ships to promote something he's calling the "slow travel movement." You know, there's the slow food movement, where you're supposed to enjoy your trips along the way. Well, he actually returned from his trip, and we'll have him on the line in just a bit. We'll find out if he's a slow talker as well. We'll get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

MARTIN: Faked documents lead to an apology from the Los Angeles Times. The Times has had to backpedal on an exclusive piece it published last week about a 1994 assault on the rapper Tupac Shakur. The story was based partially on FBI documents that the Times now believes were a hoax, reportedly perpetrated by a con-man currently in prison.

STEWART: In the now-discredited piece, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Chuck Phillips alleged that rap impresario Sean P. Diddy Combs had advance knowledge of a 1994 attack in New York in which Shakur was shot five times. Shakur survived, but of course, two years later he was gunned down in Vegas.

STEWART: Yesterday, TheSmokingGun.com published a detailed analysis of the FBI documents that formed a basis for the story. SmokingGun founder Bill Bastone told NPR's David Folkenflik that when he saw the documents he was immediately suspicious.

Ms. BILL BASTONE (Founder, TheSmokingGun.com): Honestly, it was the first 15 seconds of the first page didn't look right to me. The look was wrong, the typeface. It was riddled with the most incredible spelling errors. The grammar was atrocious.

STEWART: Now, the LA Times is acknowledging that those documents appear to have been forged. In a statement yesterday from Phillips it said, quote, "In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job. I'm sorry," end quote.

MARTIN: In his article, Phillips reported that the 1994 attack on Tupac was organized by P. Diddy associates, including one named Jimmy Sabatino, who he says gave Diddy advance knowledge of the plan. The BPP spoke to Phillips when his story came out last week, and he defending his sources.

STEWART: How did the information come to you that Combs and Biggie knew that this attacked was planned before it happened?

Mr. CHUCK PHILLIPS (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Well, like I said, I have talked to people that I believed were involved in the orchestration of this attack, and I have had contact with the assailants themselves, and I believe that Sabatino himself told Puffy, or Combs, Sean Combs, however you call him.

STEWART: But Sabatino's credibility has also been called into question.

MARTIN: The alternative weekly Miami New Times published a story back in 1999 that described him as an accomplished scam artist. Sabatino is currently in prison for fraud and other felonies.

STEWART: LA Times editor Russ Stanton announced yesterday that the paper would conduct an internal review on the reporting of the story. Times spokesman Nancy Sullivan told NPR, quote, "We are taking this very seriously, and have begun our own investigation." Of course, you can keep up-to-date on this story by going to npr.org. Now let's get some more of today's headlines.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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