Hours before Newsweek retracted a story about Marilou Danley, the companion of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, one of the news outlet’s editors boasted about the exclusive on Twitter — calling Danley “weird” and saying the story “shows us how it’s done.”
Amid jabs at “crazy” gun owners and President Trump, Newsweek breaking news editor Gersh Kuntzman’s Twitter feed includes links to stories by Newsweek’s staffers, along with enthusiastic shoutouts. But his praise for reporter Melina Delkic’s “exclusive” about Marilou Danley seems misplaced, given that Newsweek took down the story and replaced it with a lengthy explanation. (The retracted story said Danley had had two husbands simultaneously, and two Social Security numbers.)
“The great @MelinaDelkic shows us how it’s done with this EXCLUSIVE look at LV shooter’s weird girlfriend,” Kuntzman wrote. The tweet remained posted on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the story’s retraction.
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He’s not the only Newsweek staffer who may have some Twitter regrets: Delkic’s self-effacing bio on her Twitter page describes her as a “J-school dropout.” (The J is for journalism.)
Kuntzman, Danley and Newsweek news director Cristina Silva did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Danley said in a statement Wednesday that she knew nothing about Paddock’s plans.
“I knew Stephen Paddock as a kind, caring, quiet man. I loved him and hoped for a quiet future together with him,” she said in a statement. “It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.”
One person familiar with Newsweek’s internal operations said the news site has recently gone on a reporter hiring spree without a corresponding increase in editors.
“There has been a hiring wave at Newsweek, [which] hired at least 10 to 20 new writers in the span of a month,” said the individual, who asked for anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the matter. “They don’t really have as many editors, didn’t really bulk up the editing staff as they did with the writing staff.”
The original article cast Danley in a seamy light.
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“The one person who holds the key to solving the mystery of why the Vegas madman murdered 59 and wounded nearly 600 people was herself a shadowy figure with a convoluted life of her own, featuring two simultaneous husbands, a bankruptcy, two Social Security numbers, multiple addresses in several states and even different ages depending on what state records you review,” the story said.
But further investigation led to the retraction, Newsweek said in a notice that replaced the original piece.
“The initial report was based on the marriage record of Danley, who was known under a different name when she married Geary Danley in Clark County, Nevada. Newsweek mistakenly matched that record to a different person who, like Danley, had also gotten married in Clark County and lived in California,” Newsweek said. “The mistake was revealed when a Newsweek reporter re-interviewed a family member of one of the women who had initially declined to comment in our story.”
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In January, the magazine was also forced to retract a different story which praised the assault of prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Since its purchase by IBT Media in 2013, the legacy magazine has progressed in fits and starts — and a lot of layoffs. In July 2016, Newsweek trimmed about six staff members. A few months later, editor-in-chief Jim Impoco and Newsweek.com executive editor Margarita Noreiga were also ousted. The broader IBT newsroom also dropped more than 30 employees in Jun 2016, Politico reported at the time.