Hour Two: Paper 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.

Hour Two: Paper Apologizes for Shakur Story

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

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Live from NPR Studios at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, Viagra. I'm Rachel Martin.


And I'm Alison Stewart. It is Thursday, March 27th, 2008. And do you know what happened ten years ago today?

MARTIN: Tell me.

STEWART: Viagra was approved by the FDA.

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STEWART: It earned the nickname "the Pfizer Riser." Pfizer is the company that makes Viagra. And while it sort of has become a punch line in many ways, I mean, it has actually had quite a significant cultural impact when you think about it. The first over-the-counter oral drug for impotence. You know, there was the perfect storm of time when baby boomers were just getting older.

MARTIN: People felt free to talk about these issues that for so long nobody ever wanted to talk about. And now, all of a sudden, it's common to hear a TV commercial with erectile dysfunction, E.D.

STEWART: Yep. We're going to talk a little bit more about this with a professor from Colgate who was actually written a book about this history of Viagra and its significance on relationships, on intimacy, and also marketing of pharmaceuticals, quite frankly.

MARTIN: Also today, a closer look at Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. His followers have been clashing with Iraqi security for three days now. We're going to delve a little deeper into a profile of this man and his significance in Iraq.

STEWART: And you're going to talk to this photographer who takes very interesting pictures. Where does he take them? And it's not a punch line.

MARTIN: No, it's not. He has chronicled graffiti in latrines at military bases, primarily in Kuwait and Afghanistan, and the photos are really interesting. I mean, there are little things you can say about what the psyche is of some one serving in the military right now. But he's careful to say, don't extrapolate, don't look at these snippets and make some big judgment about who these people are. These are one moment in time, an ephemeral moment that he's managed to capture.

STEWART: All right, and the sportscaster in North Carolina had an issue, wasn't able to use certain highlights around the time his sportscast was supposed to happen because of some NCAA rules. So he started recreating the games using dolls, toys, stuffed animals.

MARTIN: Seems logical.

STEWART: You have to see it to believe it.

MARTIN: Kind of.

STEWART: We'll get him on the line. Those stories, plus today's headlines in just a minute. But first...

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STEWART: 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 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.

MARTIN: 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 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.

Mr. 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 type face. It was riddled with the most incredible spelling errors. The grammar was atrocious.

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

STEWART: In his article, Phillips reported that the 1994 attack on Tupac Shakur 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 defended his sources.

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

Mr. CHUCK PHILLIPS (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Well, I - like I said, I talked to people that I believe 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, whatever you call him.

MARTIN: Now, the LA Times --- break in recording----

STEWART: But Rachel - but Sabatino's credibility has also come into question. 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. LA Times editor Russ Stanton announced yesterday that the paper would conduct an internal review of the reporting on the story.

Times spokesman Nancy Sullivan told NPR, quote, "We are taking this very seriously, and have begun our own investigation." You can keep up-to-date on this story anytime during the day at npr.org. Now let's get some more of today's headlines.

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