After Lawsuit, Times Finally Corrects Record on Brandon Darby, But False Text Remains

FBI informant Brandon Darby filed suit against the New York Times last week after the paper falsely accused him of having encouraged a firebombing of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and failing to correct the story. On Wednesday, the Times finally ran a correction to its February 23 article, after the lawsuit was filed.

The top correction in Wednesday's "Corrections" box reads:

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.

Yet the Times did not alter the online version of the article, a common practice the paper heralds with this standard disclaimer: "This article has been revised to reflect the following correction."

The corrected article mentioning Darby merely has a "CORRECTION APPENDED" slug at the top, with the actual correction in italics at the bottom of the page. The falsehood remained embedded in the story text as of Wednesday afternoon:

Yet federal agents accused two men from these circles of plotting to make firebombs and hurl them at police cars during the convention. An F.B.I informant from Austin, Brandon Darby, was traveling with the group and told the authorities of the plot, which he had encouraged.

Lachlan Markay summarized Darby's lawsuit at NewsBusters last week:

A former FBI informant who helped foil a bomb plot at the 2008 Republican National Convention has sued the New York Times for libel and defamation.

A Times story from February 22 claimed that Brandon Darby had "encouraged" others to bomb the RNC, when in fact he had been essential to law enforcement efforts that disrupted the plot. Evidence shows that the Times was aware of the error as early as March 3, yet the online version remains uncorrected. Applicable precedent holds that a publisher may be liable for continued publication of defamatory material, even if it was thought to be true when published, if the publisher does not make a sufficient effort to remove that material after being made aware of its inaccuracy.