By: Joe Strupp
Sean ?Puffy? Combs? attorney said he was surprised that the Los Angeles Times waited until a Web site questioned its story linking Combs to the shooting of Tupac Shakur before it investigated the situation, saying he had sent two letters in the past week to the paper demanding it retract the story.
Howard Weitzman, who has also represented stars such as Paris Hilton, told E&P he phoned the Times just hours after the story was first posted on the paper?s Web site on March 17, but received no acknowledgment that it might be inaccurate.
?When the story was first posted on the Web site, I was alerted to it and made phone calls requesting they take it down, that they run a retraction and do an investigation,? Weitzman said late Wednesday, just before the paper issued a public apology for the story. ?Don?t publish anymore and don?t put it in the print edition.?
Weitzman said a Times attorney, whom he declined to name, told him the story would only run on the Web site. He said he was surprised when a version ran in the print edition on March 19. ?My expectation was that they would run some kind of truncated version and it would go away,? he recalled. ?I have personally had great experiences with the press so I was somewhat surprised [when the print version ran].?
Weitzman said he sent the first letter demanding removal of the story and a retraction on March 18, then another on March 26. The paper announced plans to investigate the validity of the story, by veteran reporter Chuck Philips, on Wednesday after the Web site, smokinggun.com, reported that documents used in the story were allegedly fake.
Weitzman said he believed the story, which alleged Combs was linked to the shooting, was false from the start. Now that the documents have been called into question by a third party, he said it shows the paper was not careful enough in its research.
?I don?t think it is journalistically responsible; you would want your paper to be more careful,? he said. ?I think it is wrong that they ignored our request.?
Weitzman said he had taken no steps to begin a possible lawsuit against the paper, but indicated a simple retraction may not be enough to avoid a legal response.
?That is certainly a possibility,? he said about a libel suit or other action. ?A lawsuit is one of the options. It will be interesting if they ignore us. Let?s see what they put in the paper. That does not absolve them of their liability, only lowers the level of liability.?