In a remarkable display of institutional humiliation, the L.A. Times today formally retracts Chuck Philips’s article about the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur at Quad Studios — and makes it clear that the problems with Philips’s article go beyond a reliance on forged documents:
An article and related materials published on the Los Angeles Times website on March 17 have been removed from the site because they relied heavily on information that The Times no longer believes to be credible.
The article, titled “An Attack on Tupac Shakur Launched a Hip-Hop War” and written by Times staff writer Chuck Philips, purported to relate “new” information about a 1994 assault on rap star Tupac Shakur, including a description of events contained in FBI reports.
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.
Consequently, The Times is retracting the March 17 Web publications as well as a shorter version of the article that appeared on Page E1 in the March 19 Calendar section of the newspaper. Statements that Philips made in two online chats, on March 18 and 25, and on The Times’ Soundboard blog on March 21 also are being retracted.
In the embarrassing retraction, The Times admits that Chuck Philips was duped by James Sabatino:
The Times now believes that Sabatino fabricated the FBI reports and concocted his role in the assault as well as his supposed relationships with Combs, Rosemond and Agnant.
Amazingly, the paper also says that the factual inaccuracies extended to the description of Rosemond’s alleged criminal record:
In addition, The Times was mistaken in reporting that [James] Rosemond has served prison time for drug dealing and was convicted in 1996 of drug offenses. The Times specifically retracts those statements.
I repeat my past prediction: Chuck Philips may not be long for the L.A. Times.
I will also remind you that patterico.com has posts in development that will raise other questions about Philips’s past reporting. Those posts will be published regardless of what the L.A. Times decides to do with Chuck Philips.
UPDATE: Kevin Roderick is calling Philips’s story “one of the most embarrassing mistakes in its history” and today’s retraction “[o]ne of the paper’s most newsworthy retractions ever.” That should give you some idea of how significant this is.