Durango Herald apologizes for publishing soldier’s lies

“[Last] Friday, while almost everyone was paying attention to the SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare, the court also overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, a law that made it a federal misdemeanor to falsely claim an award of military medals,” writes Romenesko reader Perry Gaskill. “The rationale for the court’s decision was mostly that it violated the First Amendment; it shouldn’t be against the law to be a liar.”

“Meanwhile, Katie Burford, a news editor at the Durango Herald in Colorado did one of those pre-4th of July feature pieces, it ran Sunday, about a guy calling himself Timmy Oliver who claimed to be a former Delta Force dude, and who had parachuted into major battles in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The story Oliver told Burford, complete with PTSD flourishes, was a fabrication.”

It didn’t take the people at This Ain’t Hell blog to sniff out the false story. (“He says his name is Timothy Oliver, but apparently, it’s really Gabryal Sansclair.”)

Burford was alerted and quickly apologized for being hoodwinked. She admitted that “I’ve been doing this long enough to know better.”

Burford wrote:

Katie Burford

As the reporter who propagated Oliver’s falsehoods, I would like to offer my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets to all the true service members out there who really did make the hard sacrifices. I wish I could say it was a cub mistake, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know better. I feel wretched that my intent was to show the public the true face of veterans but instead did the opposite. Thanks to all that took the time to expose this falsehood. I will be reporting these findings in a follow-up story to run in tomorrow’s newspaper.

“This Ain’t Hell” commenters praised Burford for promptly setting the record straight.

* “What I’m fighting to make free”: A soldier’s story (Durango Herald)
* Paper heard from more than a dozen people who doubted the story (Durango Herald)
* Editor offers “my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets (thisainthell.us)
* “I’m impressed to see they retracted the whole bullshit story (thisainthell.us)