The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Enquirer today issued an apology to Chiquita Brands International Inc. for articles published May 3, 1998, that were based on illegally obtained voice mail messages and questioned Chiquita's business practices.
In a statement, Enquirer Publisher Harry M. Whipple and Editor Lawrence K. Beaupre said that facts obtained since publication have convinced them that the lead reporter had deceived them and others involved in the preparation of the articles. As a result, they said that the newspaper has renounced them. They said the articles have also been removed from the Enquirer's internet web site.
The reporter was identified as Michael Gallagher. The newspaper said he was terminated Friday for misconduct.
The Enquirer said it has agreed to publish an apology to Chiquita and its employees prominently on the front page of the newspaper today, Tuesday and Wednesday, and that it would post the apology on its web site.
It said it has also agreed to other terms -- including a payment in excess of $10 million -- in exchange for settlement of claims against it by Chiquita.
However, a criminal investigation is underway by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, and a special prosecutor has been appointed.
In its apology, the Enquirer stated that Gallagher had claimed to have obtained copies of the voice mail messages from a high-ranking Chiquita official with authority over the company's voice mail system.
"The Enquirer has now become convinced that the above representations, accusations and conclusions are untrue and created a false and misleading impression of Chiquita's business practices," the apology states.
"Information provided to the Enquirer makes it clear that not only was there never a person at Chiquita with authority to provide privileged, confidential and proprietary information but that facts now indicate that an Enquirer employee was involved in the theft of this information in violation of the law," the apology states. "The employee involved, the lead reporter Mike Gallagher, has retained counsel and will not comment on his news gathering techniques."
Gallagher is an experienced reporter whose previous work had uncovered problems in government and private operations.
The Enquirer's statement continued: "Despite assurances to his editors prior to publication that he obtained his information in an ethical and lawful manner, we can no longer trust his word and have taken disciplinary action against him for violations of Enquirer standards. The Enquirer will continue to investigate whether others involved in these articles engaged in similar conduct."
Although the newspaper's investigation is ongoing, the Enquirer said that at this point it has no evidence that anyone other than Gallagher had engaged in unlawful conduct.
"This deceitful, unethical and unlawful conduct has undermined the entire project and jeopardized the Enquirer's reputation," Whipple and Beaupre said in a separate statement. "The reporter betrayed his co-workers and his newspaper. His misconduct has no place in journalism, and the Enquirer wants no part of it."
They continued: "The Enquirer deeply regrets that these unauthorized actions have hurt the integrity of the newspaper and the trust of our readers. We will take all necessary steps to restore that trust."