A recent Rolling Stone magazine article examining the murder of rap legend, the Notorious B.I.G. has ignited a war of words between the Los Angeles Times and author Randall Sullivan.
In a letter to the editor, Marc Duvoisin, assistant managing editor of the L.A. Times, wrote that Randall Sullivan’s accusations of the Times’ efforts to “keep the lid on evidence implicating rogue police officers in the murder of Notorious B.I.G. lacks any foundation in fact.”
Duvoisin goes on to say the theories brought out in Rolling Stone were initially reported in his newspaper in 1999.
“The Times was the first to report this information. When subsequent developments cast doubt on the conspiracy theory, the Times wrote about those as well. But Sullivan makes no mention of the original articles, even as he parrots their contents (without acknowledgment).
“In so doing, he forfeits any claim to be taken seriously.”
The origin of the dispute stems from Biggie’s 1997 murder, a crime that remains unsolved.
The rapper was murdered after attending a Soul Train Music Awards after party in California.
Biggie’s estate filed a civil lawsuit against the LAPD in 2002, claiming the organization failed to properly investigate her son’s slaying.
Last year, a mistrial was declared after it was discovered an LAPD detective withheld crucial evidence that would have supported the Wallace family’s claims against the LAPD.
Duvoisin saw no point in detailing “all of Sullivan’s factual errors and false accusations,” despite criticizing Sullivan for not getting all the facts before disputing Chuck Phillips, who implicated B.I.G. in Tupac Shakur’s fatal 1996 shooting in Las Vegas in his 2002 story.
“Sullivan writes that the piece relied entirely on two named sources. In fact, as Philips’ article made clear, he drew on multiple sources, including gang members who witnessed the shooting and one who helped plan it. Their identities, for obvious reasons, could not be revealed.”
Despite Sullivan’s criticism, Duvoisin stood by his writer’s account, saying the piece has “withstood all challenges to its accuracy, including Sullivan’s. It remains the definitive account of the Shakur slaying.”
In response to the letter, Sullivan counters Duvoisin in his own letter by acknowledging the 1999 article in his story as well as his book, “LAbyrinth.”
“It’s irritating to have to waste time defending myself against ridiculous accusations when the real issue is the dishonest reporting of The Los Angeles Times,” wrote Sullivan, who goes on to call the Times’ 2002 story “one of the worst reported news stories I’ve ever read, riddled with factual omissions, and failing to address any of the questions raised by (former LAPD detective Russell) Poole.”
“The Times 2002 article that implicated B.I.G. in the murder of Tupac Shakur was as reckless a piece of reporting as I’m aware of by a major American newspaper. I did not write that the Times relied entirely on two named sources, but merely that only two sources were named in the article. In fact, neither of these two individuals were the source of the claim that B.I.G. paid gang members to murder Tupac; that information came entirely from an anonymous Crip whose claims are so obviously dubious that to rely on them in even a limited sense was questionable, and to make them the sole basis of such a sensational story was utterly irresponsible.”
Sullivan wrote that he spent hours talking to Duvoisin on the phone prior to the story’s publication in what Duvoisin insisted must be “off-the-record” conversations about the sources for the story.
Nevertheless, Sullivan felt the talks had less to do with protecting the Times!sources than shielding the paper from ” the humiliation of having their shoddy work made public.”
To read the letters in their entirety, visit www.rollingstone.com.