National Enquirer apologizes to Smart family

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 30 2003 12:00 AM ET

The National Enquirer apologized Monday for falsely reporting that some of kidnapped teen Elizabeth Smart's relatives had been involved in a gay sex ring, while Utah's largest newspaper fired two of its reporters for helping and taking money from the tabloid. "The Enquirer regrets any embarrassment or harm the article may have caused Ed, Tom, and David Smart or their families," the Enquirer said in a statement, referring to Elizabeth's father, Ed and her uncles, Tom and David. The statement was contained in a joint statement issued by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based supermarket tabloid and the Smart family.

The Enquirer said its July 2 article was "inaccurate and false" and that the tabloid mistakenly reported that law enforcement officials stated that the brothers were involved in a gay sex scandal. The article, published about a month after the then-14-year-old Elizabeth had been kidnapped from her home at knifepoint, was considered in such bad taste that some Salt Lake City supermarkets refused to sell the paper.

The Salt Lake Tribune said Tuesday it fired two reporters who were paid $20,000 for collaborating with the National Enquirer on the story. Reporters Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera split $20,000 for their help on the Enquirer story, headlined "Utah Cops: Secret Diary Exposes Family Sex Ring." In a statement announcing the firings, Tribune editor James E. Shelledy said
Vigh and Cantera misled the newspaper when they initially told Shelledy about their involvement with the tabloid. While the reporters originally said they had provided the tabloid with a "roadmap" of the investigation, Shelledy said he had since learned they provided a much larger part of the story.

Elizabeth was found in March not far from her home and is now back with her family. A homeless couple who allegedly kidnapped her and threatened to harm her family if she tried to run away is in jail awaiting trial.

The Smart family said it is satisfied with the settlement. But in a statement released by family spokesman Chris Thomas, the family said it is disappointed with local media and law enforcement sources who contributed to the Enquirer article. "Those overseeing these individuals need to realize the magnitude of such serious legal and ethical issues and take appropriate action," the statement read.

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