Exclusive: To Kevin Deutsch, crime reporter: Where is the Boston Marathon bombing victim’s classmate? Where is the man who worked out at the same gym as the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter? Where are the two men who taunted an ex-cop in Bronx Central Booking after he killed his girlfriend?
iMediaEthics has looked into a handful of Deutsch’s articles since we read the New York Times‘ Feb. 25 editor’s note citing its problem of not being able to find the existence of two of Deutsch’s sources for a story on fentanyl use on Long Island.
We have sent out dozens of information requests by phone and e-mail for fact checking, and responses are continuing to come in.
At the same time, the New York Daily News, the 8th-largest circulation newspaper in the U.S, Newsday, the 13th largest, and now, Newsweek are conducting reviews of Deutsch’s work.
Random friends, work colleagues and classmates of key figures in Deutsch’s big national news stories continue to not check out.
And Deutsch, 35, a longtime crime reporter formerly on staff for Newsday and New York Daily News, continues to fail to provide iMediaEthics with any evidence that the sources we have found to be dubious really exist and defends all of his work in blogposts, tweets and e-mail.
Exclusive updates that follow our first two stories:
- Newsweek is now conducting a review of the three articles it published by Deutsch, it told iMediaEthics. So Newsweek, the Daily News and Newsday are all continuing reviews of Deutsch’s work for them. Newsday’s review began nearly a month ago.
- Queens College told iMediaEthics that Deutsch resigned from teaching journalism on the morning of the first business day after the New York Times‘ editor’s note appeared. The resignation was effective immediately and he didn’t show up to teach class that day. The school was surprised and had to scramble to find someone to cover his class, then hire an instructor to replace him mid-semester.
- iMediaEthics has found four more instances of dubious sourcing — a third missing source from his Newsday Orlando coverage, another one from his Boston Marathon coverage, and two from a Daily News crime story.
- This makes the total, so far, of eight sources with discrepancies — two from the New York Times, two from Newsday we reported on last week, and the four new ones we are reporting on today.
There are now eight total sources with discrepancies, proving basic fact checking steps failed, such as the reporter or his editors calling the school, NYPD, or the shooter’s gym to verify one of Deutsch’s lucky scoops. The following is, in brief, a list of the sources, the descriptions Deutsch provided for them, what the problem is, and what, if any, explanation Deutsch has offered.
- Jason Hart, a “gym-goer…of Port St. Lucie” who described Omar Mateen, who belonged to Gold’s Gym Port St. Lucie, working out. iMediaEthics spoke with Gold’s Gym Port St. Lucie general manager Alexis Carrol who checked, saying no one with that name is in their system. Deutsch’s explanation? Hart told him he was a member outside the gym.
- Joel Gutierrez, “32, an accused drug dealer” described as taunting Eddy Coello at Bronx Central Booking. The NYPD, which is in charge of Bronx Central Booking, told iMediaEthics that no man with that name was arrested during the month in question. Bronx Central Booking told iMediaEthics it is only where people await arraignment. Deutsch’s explanation? “I interviewed both men, who provided information demonstrating their accounts were accurate.”
- Ronaldo Simms, “locked up for fighting” and described as taunting Eddy Coello at Bronx Central Booking. Again, the NYPD told iMediaEthics that no man with that name was arrested during the month in question. Deutsch’s explanation? Same excuse: “I interviewed both men, who provided information demonstrating their accounts were accurate.”
- Patricia Dula, “friend and classmate” of Lu Lingzi, the Boston University student who was killed at the Boston Marathon bombing. Boston University, where Lingzi was enrolled as a graduate student, told iMediaEthics no one with the name Patricia Dula was a student. Deutsch’s explanation? “I have no doubt she was a student at BU, though it’s unclear what name she was enrolled under.”
- Eric Baumer, a “colleague” “whose security guard shifts at the PGA Golf Club at PGA Village overlapped with Omar Mateen’s in 2015.” Mateen’s employer, G4S, told iMediaEthics they never employed anyone with the name Eric Baumer. Deutsch’s explanation? Baumer “self-identified” as a security guard, and “What name he worked under or has listed on his birth certificate I can’t be certain, but I had no reason to doubt his story.”
- Aahil Khan a “childhood friend” and “classmate” of Omar Mateen. Mateen’s school districts told iMediaEthics no Aahil Khan was enrolled. Deutsch’s explanation? Newsday’s headline called him a “classmate,” he never did, but he never asked Newsday to correct that designation.
- Jeffrey Sheridan, “a resident of Oyster Bay, N.Y., who works as an addiction counselor and whose 34-year-old nephew died from a fentanyl overdose on Staten Island in 2015.” The New York Times posted an editor’s note Feb. 24 saying it couldn’t locate Sheridan. Deutsch’s explanation? He must have given him “something other than their legal name,” which is “standard occurrence” covering drug and addiction.
- Andrew Giordano, “a 26-year-old resident of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, who overdosed on a fentanyl-heroin mixture.” The New York Times posted an editor’s note Feb. 24 saying it couldn’t locate Sheridan. Deutsch’s explanation? Same excuse: He must have given him “something other than their legal name,” which is “standard occurrence” covering drug and addiction.
Backstory on How Investigations Began
Last month, the Baltimore Sun reported questions about Deutsch’s new book Pill City, which is subtitled “How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire”. The Sun‘s reporters contacted the New York Times, which had published a freelance article by Deutsch in December, and Newsday, where Deutsch was on staff for four years.
After the New York Times‘ Feb. 24 editor’s note revealed that it could not locate two of Deutsch’s sources, iMediaEthics looked into several of Deutsch’s articles.
As we reported earlier this month, “Exclusive: 572 Stories by Fmr NY Daily News Crime Reporter under Review after NYT Admits Source Fail,” iMediaEthics found two problematic sources, Aahil Khan and Eric Baumer, in two of Deutsch’s stories on the Orlando Pulse shooting published in June 2016.
Deutsch reported that Baumer was a “colleague” of Mateen’s whose “security guard shifts at the PGA Golf Club at PGA Village overlapped with Mateen’s in 2015.” iMediaEthics contacted G4S, which employed Mateen as a security guard, and G4S said it never employed anyone with the name Eric Baumer. “We have no record of an employee (current or former) named Eric Baumer (or close variation),” G4S director of communications Monica Lewman-Garcia told iMediaEthics last week.
iMediaEthics also reported that Aahil Khan, described as a “classmate” in the headline and “childhood friend” of Mateen’s, didn’t attend school with Mateen. The Martin County School District and St. Lucie Public Schools told us they had no record of any student named Aahil Khan.
(After publication of that article, Deutsch admitted in an e-mail to iMediaEthics he didn’t ask Newsday to correct the characterization of “classmate” from the headline anytime during the past nine months. He wrote to iMediaEthics that he was too busy but asserted it was Newsday’s error and that iMediaEthics should publish a correction. We asked Newsday if it erred and are waiting for a response. If the headline was mistaken, iMediaEthics will correct.)
New Missing Sources: Where is Jason Hart?
In this report, iMediaEthics reveals more discrepancies — a third missing source from his Newsday Orlando Pulse shooter coverage, a missing source from his Boston Marathon bombing coverage and two missing sources from a New York Daily News crime story — a total of four new missing sources from two Newsday articles and one New York Daily News story.
In the June Newsday story, “Omar Mateen cheered on 9/11 as towers fell, says classmate,” Deutsch quoted Khan, a source iMediaEthics could not find. iMediaEthics asked Deutsch where he met Khan and he responded, “Why in the world would I share this information with you?”
We asked how he verified his story, and Deutsch responded, “I verified his story while reporting in the field during my time in Orlando following the terrorist shooting. His story is accurate, and you have no evidence to suggest otherwise.”
Deutsch also quoted a Jason Hart, described as a “gym-goer” who had watched Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub shooter, work out.
“Mateen often spent time attending prayer services at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce or lifting weights at Gold’s Gym in Port St. Lucie.
“Members there said he worked out several times a week, rarely interacting with other weightlifters.
“‘He was definitely a strong kid,’ said gym-goer Jason Hart of Port St. Lucie. ‘He always looked intense. Like he was training. It’s kind of eerie to think about that now.'”
iMediaEthics contacted the gym Deutsch reported, Gold’s Gym in Port St. Lucie, to ask about a Jason Hart.
The gym general manager for over ten years, Alexis Carrol, told iMediaEthics by phone, “We don’t have any member with that name” and “no one by that name is in the system.”
Deutsch told iMediaEthics he met Hart outside the gym.
“With regards to my Orlando coverage, I interviewed a man who gave his name as Jason Hart outside the Gold’s Gym in Port St. Lucie,” he wrote. “He was among a group of several men who appeared to have just finished working out at the gym; when I asked if they were members of the facility, they said they were. ”
“Hart gave me the quotes attached to his name in the story,” he said. “The interview lasted all of a minute or two, as I recall; among the people in that particular group of men, Hart was the only one who told me he recalled seeing Mateen, and who commented when I asked what these men remembered about Mateen, if anything. Nothing in my story was inaccurate.”
This, added with Aahil Khan and Eric Baumer, makes a total of three missing sources we couldn’t find who were quoted in two Newsday Orlando Pulse shooter stories.
Boston Marathon Bombing: Another Missing ‘Classmate’
After iMediaEthics’ March 2 story, Deutsch disputed that he called Aahil Khan a “classmate,” blaming it on Newsday inserting an error in the headline of his story that he never corrected, we found another missing “classmate” in the body of an article Deutsch reported for Newsday’s Boston Marathon bombing coverage.
Deutsch’s Newsday article about Lu Lingzi, the Boston University graduate student from China who was fatally injured at the Boston Marathon bombing, was headlined in May 2013, “Boston Marathon bombing victim Lu Lingzi honored with posthumous degree.” Deutsch quoted “friend and classmate Patricia Dula” and “friend Michele Hua.”
Since Dula is identified as a classmate, we contacted Lingzi’s university, Boston University, to check if Dula was a student. We also checked to see if Hua was a student, just in case.
Boston University PR told iMediaEthics “Given the information you have provided, we have no record of either having been enrolled at BU.”
Deutsch’s response? “Dula was among a number of people I communicated with on and around the BU campus, as well as by phone, email, and social media, after Lingzi was identified as a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing,” he wrote. “Dula identified herself as a classmate and friend of Lingzi’s and related some memories and impressions of her. I have no doubt she was a student at BU, though it’s unclear what name she was enrolled under.”
Were ‘jailbirds’ Gutierrez and Simms in Central Booking with ex-cop?
iMediaEthics also tried to track down the existence and validity of two sources Deutsch quotes in his New York Daily News story about former police officer Eddy Coello, accused (and later convicted) of murdering his wife. The Daily News is still reviewing Deutsch’s 572 news stories, as iMediaEthics previously reported.
Deutsch’s story, “Inmates torment ex-cop in wife-slay,” reported in late March 2011 that “jailbirds at Bronx Central Booking heckled Eddy Coello,” quoting a “Joel Gutierrez, 32, an accused drug dealer” and a “Ronaldo Simms, who was locked up for fighting.”
The article reports on taunts against Coello during his 20-hour stay at Bronx Central Booking.
The crime reporter wrote Gutierrez said he told Coello, “I told him he was a little b—- for doing her like that…I said ‘You ain’t even a real man for hurting that pretty lady.'”
Deutsch reported Simms stated, “Those boys don’t like cops”
iMediaEthics called Bronx Central Booking, where people who have been arrested are held waiting for arraignment. Bronx Central Booking directed us to the headquarters of the New York Police Department, Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information.
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“I have no Joel Gutierrez or Ronaldo Simms arrested in March of 2011,” NYPD Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information e-mailed iMediaEthics.
Deutsch’s response? “I interviewed both men, who provided information demonstrating their accounts were accurate. Their accounts remain accurate.”
Deutsch added, “Beyond that, in the real world of reporting, sources sometimes provide names other than their birth names, unbeknownst to journalists. We don’t exclude real people from journalism and storytelling because they don’t have identities that are intrinsically attached to a stable wireless phone number, or who perhaps live in an apartment that isn’t in their name, is jobless, grappling with addiction, or has low level offenses or legal troubles that would preclude them from wanting their real name used, but who are still as real as you or I.”
Deutsch Quit Queens College Job in a Rush
Deutsch unexpectedly resigned his job teaching at Queens College after the Times’ editor’s note,even though he was scheduled to teach that afternoon. By not showing up for class, he thus avoided having to face his students after the Times editor’s note citing problems in his reporting.
“Kevin Deutsch, known to us as Kevin Shulman, sent an email letter resigning from his Queens College adjunct post on Monday, Feb. 27,” Gavin McCormick, Acting Director of the Journalism Program, told iMediaEthics by e-mail. “We had anticipated that he would work the entire Spring ’17 semester. We hired another adjunct to finish the term for his class.”
iMediaEthics learned that Deutsch isn’t his real last name, but that he uses his mother’s maiden name (Deutsch) as a byline instead of his legal name Kevin Shulman. Deutsch sent iMediaEthics by e-mail a copy of an article he wrote, published by the Miami Herald in 2007, explaining that when he was a child, his mother left his father because his father was bipolar, so he uses his mother’s maiden name.
By phone, McCormick explained to iMediaEthics, “We were surprised that Kevin resigned” and that Deutsch sent an e-mailed letter of resignation on “the morning he was to teach a class.”
“We had to scramble and replace him,” McCormick said.
But Deutsch’s story doesn’t fit this narrative. His reason for quitting?
“I’ve stepped away from CUNY in order to work full time on my next book,” Deutsch e-mailed iMediaEthics last week. “But I continue to teach journalism and writing to students interested in the craft.” iMediaEthics has asked him where.
Deutsch didn’t respond to this or why he quit in a hurry. He wouldn’t tell iMediaEthics anything about his forthcoming book.
While Deutsch claimed to iMediaEthics he resigned from Queens College to work on a book, his explanation is also suspect given the timeline. He quit the first business day in the morning after the New York Times editor’s note was published revealing it couldn’t find two of his sources and after iMediaEthics informed him we were reporting on the case.
- Feb. 25: Saturday, The New York Times publishes in its print edition an editor’s note revealing the two missing sources
- Feb 25, evening: iMediaEthics’ first contacted Deutsch, informing him we were working on a story about the Times editor’s note and asking questions
- Feb. 26: Deutsch responds to iMediaEthics’ first inquiry
- Feb. 27, Monday morning: Deutsch resigns effective immediately, even though he has a class that day
- March 1: iMediaEthics’ first story on Deutsch published
iMediaEthics asked Pill City publisher St. Martin’s Press if there is any arrangement or understanding to publish Deutsch’s next book. Publicity manager Rebecca Lang told iMediaEthics by e-mail that it doesn’t have any other books “under contract” with Deutsch beyond Pill City.
She wrote that the publishing company stands by Deutsch’s book, stating in part, “The book was legally vetted before publication. In this case, we have every reason to believe, and no reason to doubt, the author’s veracity and the accuracy of his book.”
Newsweek conducting its own review
Newsweek is now conducting a review of the three articles it published by Kevin Deutsch, iMediaEthics has learned. Newsweek joins Newsday and the Daily News in reviewing crime reporter Deutsch’s work (and the New York Times’ review of his December freelance story for the paper).
Newsweek’s website has three stories with Deutsch’s byline:
- Aug. 20, 2014, “For St. Louis Gangs, Ferguson has become a Recruiting Tool.”
- Oct. 8, 2014, “The Drug War in Long Island’s Hempstead Ghetto is the Free-Market with Tec-9s,” an excerpt from his book The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips. Newsweek notes that “most of” the names in the that book, and thus the adaptation,”have been changed.”
- April 28, 2015, “Freddie Gray Protests Unite Baltimore Gang Members.”
Mark Lappin, the Director of Communications for Newsweek International, told iMediaEthics, “I can confirm that Newsweek is currently in the process of reviewing all articles Kevin Deutsch has contributed to our publication.”
[Commentary] iMediaEthics’ Response to Deutsch’s Observer Op-Ed
Days after iMediaEthics’ investigation reporting that we could not find two sources and the major New York Daily News review of his work, Deutsch published an op-ed in the New York Observer, “Kevin Deutsch: The Truth is on my Side.”
Deutsch used his Observer op-ed to attack iMediaEthics, the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun. He charged the New York Times with an attempt “to tarnish my reputation” with its editor’s note admitting it couldn’t find two of his sources, and that iMediaEthics’ previous story on him revealing discrepancies with two additional sources of his was “inaccurate.”
Other than this, Deutsch only provided general defenses of his work by describing his high ethical standards and derring-do in the opinion piece, blogposts and e-mail to iMediaEthics without corroboration.
In his Observer piece, Deutsch also derided as “downright shameful” journalists fact checking his biographical information — namely, his school and employment history.
Deutsch suddenly offered the details concerning the supposed Mateen colleague Baumer coming up to him at a restaurant and offering an interview, which he never offered to iMediaEthics, while accusing iMediaEthics of not correcting alleged errors. (Deutsch only made one correction request until late last night and we informed him if he provided evidence, we would correct.)
Deutsch misleads when he states iMediaEthics was wrong that he never “suggested” Baumer worked for G4S when the article clearly demonstrates he had. “The article also falsely suggested,” Deutsch claims, “that I said Baumer worked for the same security company that employed Mateen, when no such claim was made.”
Yet, his Newsday article reported Baumer’s “security guard shifts at the PGA Golf Club at PGA Village overlapped with Mateen’s in 2015,” that Baumer was a “colleague,” and that Mateen worked for G4S. Deutsch’s own reporting clearly indicates Baumer is a supposed G4S employee.
The Observer refused to correct this when contacted by iMediaEthics.
Deutsch uses misdirection, apparently hoping most people won’t take the time to check and see his own reporting contradicts his new statements.
Concerning Deutsch’s defense to iMediaEthics that Newsday, not he, called Aahil Khan Mateen’s classmate? Deutsch leaves a major reporting failure unaddressed.
In Newsday, Deutsch’s Aahil Khan (the headline of his report named him as a “classmate”) told him the very newsworthy claim that his “childhood friend” Mateen was suspended from school for “cheering” after Sept. 11. But why didn’t Deutsch contact the school district to fact check the dramatic claim a random person told him? According to the school’s records, Deutsch was never in touch, as we reported in our last story.
It’s important to note that Deutsch reported a sensational story taking the word of someone on face value without conducting any independent fact checking whatsoever with the school system, the one organization that would be able to verify the story.
Regarding the two missing New York Times sources, Deutsch wrote for the Observer, “Unbeknownst to me, each apparently supplied me with something other than their legal name. That’s a standard occurrence for reporters covering addiction and drug treatment.”
If he is right, and it’s a “standard occurrence” for him and other reporters to be given false identities by sources, it’s all the more reason why Deutsch or any other reporter needs to verify before publication to ensure, for the sake of the public and his publication, that the sources he quotes are telling the truth.
When asked about this, he defended his reporting, pointing to his blogpost saying “It now seems clear each interviewee gave me a name other than their legal name, but I had no reason to believe that at the time.”
Despite what he wrote in the Observer — that sources self-identified or that it’s standard for certain sources to give false information, he doesn’t say in his news reports he was using pseudonyms. There was no “self-described addiction counselor” nor a “self-identified security guard” in his New York Times or Newsday stories. Just sources with real-sounding names and jobs presented as fact.
Getting called out for a source giving a fake name once, even twice, may be an understandable method fail, but eight times in five newspaper stories strains belief. When names and employment of sources reported by a journalist, especially an award-winning, experienced one, do not check out, it’s a big credibility problem.
Deutsch’s explanations for these missing sources underscores basic reporting and fact-checking failures. He blames others, including his editors and sources, who he claims must have provided fake names or work affiliations.
All of these explanations, one-off, could be forgivable, especially for an inexperienced reporter. However, in this case, taken collectively and in combination with Deutsch’s senior status as a long-time crime reporter and college journalism teacher, it raises serious questions about the legitimacy of his reporting.
Deutsch asked yesterday afternoon for iMediaEthics to promise we would publish in full whatever he sent. We explained to him we couldn’t do that sight unseen with un-fact-checked and possibly libelous answers of an undetermined length. This prompted his decision to publish some of our e-mails on his website including one he labeled off-the-record. We are publishing the full thread of all e-mails between us, which shows we asked plain factual questions and always treated Deutsch with respect and in a professional manner, despite his personal attacks. As noted, we redacted anything labeled off-the-record from before March 1, when we told Deutsch everything was on the record. Read here (PDF) (Updated 6:25 AM with more e-mails).
Being based in New York, as Deutsch is, iMediaEthics would take him up on seeing his notes, an offer he extended to others, namely, the Baltimore City Paper and Sun in response to questions about his book. We asked Deutsch for an opportunity to see the notes. He blew off the request, responding “The day I let you in my home, Sydney, will be the day you start doing real journalism.”
With reporting by Pat Shannon and Rhonda Roland Shearer
UPDATED: 3/13/2017 6:24 AM EST With e-mails
UPDATED: 3/13/2017 10:41 AM Fixed broken link