The article, written by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chuck Philips, appeared to provide new insight into the incident where Shakur was shot five times in the lobby of a New York recording studio and robbed for his jewelery, the same attack that is widely believed to have officially started the bitter feud between East and West coast rappers.
Shakur survived the New York shooting, later penning numerous songs about the attack and his plotted revenge, but was fatally gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas. His murder remains unsolved.
Since Tupac was killed, Philips and the L.A. Times have a written a number of controversial stories on the subject, including one where Philips uses unamed sources to report that New York rapper Notorius B.I.G., who was embroiled in a highly publicized beef with Tupac at the time, played a role in Tupac's death.
B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was killed six months after Shakur. His death, although rumored to be connected to Tupac's, also remains unsolved.
Here's a link to Philips' 2002 story where he reports that B.I.G. paid gang members to kill Tupac:
That particular story drew criticism from the Wallace family, which labeled Philips' reportage on the subject as one of the "most extreme examples of irresponsible journalism."
Link to Wallace family statement on Philips' reporting in 2002:
But Philips' most recent story on Tupac has come under a firestorm of criticism that could tarnish his personal reputation and that of his newspaper's indefinitely. In the story, Philips cited summaries of FBI interviews with an unamed informant that suggest Sean "Diddy" Combs set up the shooting against Tupac as a form of retribution. Philips never verified the validity of the documents with the FBI before writing his story.
The artilce, titled "An attack on Tupac Shakur launched a Hip Hop war," states:
"Now, newly discovered information, including interviews with people who were at the studio that night, lends credence to Shakur’s insistence that associates of rap impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs were behind the assault. Their alleged motives: to punish Shakur for disrespecting them and rejecting their business overtures and, not incidentally, to curry favor with Combs.
"FBI records obtained recently by The Times say that a confidential informant told authorities in 2002 that Rosemond and Sabatino 'set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios.'"
Link to Philips' entire story where he ties Diddy to Tupac's 1994 shooting:
Turns out that the documents used by Philips were fabricated by a con man serving time in federal prison. An award winning journalist covering the music industry for more than a decade and the fourth largest paper in the country got duped, it's that simple.
An online investigative magazine called The Smoking Gun first reported that the documents used by The Times were fabricated. The Smoking Gun points out a number of inconsistencies within the documents that simply didn't pass the smell test.
Link to the Smoking Gun story that exposed Philips and the Times:
Now, Philips and the L.A. Times are scrambling to make amends. The paper has since admitted the documents were fabricated, removed/retarcted the story from its Web siteand issued an formal apology to its readers.
Link to L.A. Times retraction and apology:
This isn't the first time that Philips' integrity as a reporter on the subject of Tupac and Biggie's killings has come into question. In 2005, Rolling Stone penned a 14,000 word article on the subject of Tupac and Biggie Smalls murders and raised questions about Philips' potentially close ties to Death Row CEO Suge Knight, the record label that employed Tupac, and Philips' apparently biased coverage of both murders.
Other journalists who have covered the murders also say that Philips has been less than fair in his coverage of the cases.
Link to the Rolling Stone and online magazine articles:
For veteran and budding journalists alike, the main issue raised in this situation is confirming the validity of documents before you write a story. This is not the first time a reporter has been duped by fake documents, just think about Dan Rather and you can begin to gauge how serious the issue is. This story didn't deal with the president, but it did deal with two of the biggest rappers ever and two of the most prominent unsolved murders in the past 25 years.
Philips' coverage of the Tupac and Biggie Smalls killings also raise interesting questions about the use of unamed sources and just how close of a friendship a reporter can forge with a source without compromising coverage.
More cool stuff to look at:
Link to the fake FBI documents that Philips used in his story:
Links to other stories Philips wrote about Tupac, Biggie and their associates: