Boston Herald writer expresses regret over false report

BOSTON -- The Boston Herald sports writer who reported the New England Patriots taped a pre-Super Bowl walkthrough by the St. Louis Rams in 2002 said he will regret the erroneous story for the rest of his life.

"First and foremost, this is about a writer breaking one of the cardinal rules of journalism. I failed to keep challenging what I had been told," wrote John Tomase in Friday's editions of the newspaper.

Tomase explained what led up to the publication of the Feb. 2 story, which appeared one day before the Patriots' 17-14 Super Bowl XLII loss to the New York Giants. The Herald on Wednesday apologized for the story, after former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that he did not tape the walkthrough and did not know of anyone who had.

Tomase wrote that he first heard rumors that the walkthrough had been taped during the 2006 season. Those rumors strengthened after the Patriots were caught illegally taping signals by New York Jets' coaches during the opening game of the 2007 season. Goodell fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 for that incident, and stripped New England of a first-round draft choice.

"I had repeatedly heard that this walkthrough had been taped, and from people I trusted. Eventually I accepted it as fact and stopped questioning the assertion," Tomase said.

After verifying that a member of the team's video staff had been setting up a camera at the walkthrough, Tomase said he then made a "devastating leap of logic," by assuming the camera was rolling.

Tomase said none of his sources told him they had seen a tape.

"I should not have written the story without seeing the tape or getting multiple, firsthand confirmations from members of the organization," he wrote.

He also conceded that he should have given the Patriots more time to investigate and respond. The team adamantly denied the story.

Tomase explained that while he had several sources of information, the Feb. 2 story included only one unnamed source, because he relied on that source more than the others. He said despite a "clamoring" to reveal the sources, he would not do so because he had promised anonymity and breaking that promise would hurt his ability to pursue stories in the future.

Tomase said he planned to continue covering the Patriots and will work to regain the trust of both the organization and his readers.

"I take immense pride in what I do and the paper I work for. I truly believe it's a privilege to serve as a link between the fans and their team."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press