Facing Defamation Lawsuit, NYT Finally Corrects Story That Smeared FBI Informant

March 17th, 2011 9:55 AM

It took the threat of a defamation lawsuit, but the New York Times finally corrected a story from late February that accused FBI informant Brandon Darby of "encouraging" a plot to bomb the 2008 Republican National Convention, when in fact Darby was integral to law enforcement efforts to disrupt that plot.

The Times was aware of the error as far back as March 3, according to emails included in the brief filed by Darby's attorney. Yet the error remained uncorrected on the Times website until Wednesday.

As I wrote earlier this week, the fact that the Times was aware of the error and yet continued to publish it online may have made it liable. Darby's attorney certainly thought it did, and at least one legal expert concurred.

Here is the full text of the Times's correction, posted below the original story:

An article on Feb. 23 about developments in the investigation of a 2008 arson fire at the Texas governor’s mansion misstated the role played by an F.B.I. informer, Brandon Darby, in an earlier case in Minnesota. In that case, two men were accused of making and possessing gasoline bombs at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008. Both men eventually pleaded guilty. Initially, however, one of them implicated Mr. Darby, saying Mr. Darby had persuaded him to make the bombs. He later conceded that Mr. Darby had not entrapped him.

File this away in your useful information drawer: The best way to get a correction in the New York Times is to threaten to sue them for libel. We congratulate Mr. Darby.