What the Los Angeles Times Got Wrong

LA Times

Despite an agreement between Dr. Eric Ting and the UCLA Board of Regents to keep the results of a bogus investigation by the Hueston Hennigan law firm sealed, someone with knowledge of the report steered a Los Angeles Times reporter named Alexis Timko to file a public records request for the report and for very specific documents related to the investigation of three respected and tenured professors at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

This is not the first time that a university official has “suggested” that someone make a request for the Hueston Hennigan report. A former UCLA professor named Martin Martz responded under penalty of perjury to discovery questions that he had communicated with Paul Krebsbach, Dean of the School of Dentistry of UCLA, “and in the course of the conversation he mentioned that it was possible that I could file [a CPRA] request.”

In Dr. Ting’s lawsuit against UCLA in 2020, he laid out a clear case of retaliation on the part of university officials, and it is Dr. Ting’s belief that the Hueston Hennigan report was a key piece of that retaliation, designed to force him and his colleagues to leave the School of Dentistry.

All of this backstory was relayed to Ms. Timko before she reported the story, yet she chose to focus on the meritless accusations within the Hueston Hennigan report and why it continues to be sealed rather than the motivation for why it was created in the first place.

Here is what happened before and after the Los Angeles Times’ readers learned of the Hueston Hennigan report in an article released on August 30, 2022:

—After receiving the tip about the report, Ms. Timko worked on the story for an undetermined number of weeks as revealed by her request for documents via the California Public Records Act

—At no time during this process did Ms. Timko reach Dr. Ting to get his side of the story until August 24, 2022, when she sent an email to an old personal email address that Dr. Ting never used anymore and gave him less than six hours to respond to the reporting that she had been doing for weeks on the Hueston Hennigan investigation

—Dr. Ting’s legal team responded to Ms. Timko’s request with a number of public documents which outlined Dr. Ting’s previous claims as a whistleblower at the university and how the administration had retaliated against his efforts to call out scientific misconduct, sexual harassment and racial discrimination at the university

—A representative for Dr. Ting offered to give Ms. Timko the contact information for eight different former residents and faculty members who would support Dr. Ting’s claims, but Ms. Timko refused, saying this was “just the first in a series of stories on this topic”, and she might consider talking to them after the first story published

—As the deadline approached, Dr. Ting’s attorney contacted the attorneys for two other professors known only as “John Does” in a lawsuit filed to prevent the release of the Hueston Hennigan report, and they released a statement on behalf of their clients, strongly denying the accusations in the report, questioning the pretext of the investigation and flagging the denial of due process for all of the John Does during the course of the investigation

—Despite reporting that formal charges were dismissed and pending disciplinary hearings were stopped (all true), the Los Angeles Times article went on to repeat the false and defamatory claims of the Hueston Hennigan report

—Ms. Timko also chose to include a 15-year-old story in her report about a previous UCLA investigation from 2007 into donations that allegedly influenced admissions and invoked Dr. Ting’s name despite the fact that he denied all of the allegations and that the investigation found “no evidence of wrongdoing”

—While Ms. Timko did include a mention of Dr. Ting’s lawsuit against UCLA from 2020 in her report, the amount of editorial space given to Dr. Ting’s whistleblower claims paled in comparison to the innuendo and attempts to tie Dr. Ting to the most serious allegations made in the Hueston Hennigan report

—Dr. Ting’s attorney sent a letter to the Los Angeles Times’ general counsel to demand a retraction, but the general counsel declined the request, citing the use of public documents and previous media coverage of the incidents at UCLA to justify their inclusion in the article

—Within weeks of the publication of her article, Ms. Timko ended her summer internship with the Los Angeles Times and left to work for another company with no follow-up to her “first story in a series of reports” as promised —Despite repeated attempts to offer the Los Angeles Times an interview with Dr. Ting, Dr. Chia Soo and eight former residents and faculty members who could help tell Dr. Ting’s side of the story in attempt to provide voices for a follow-up story, no one at the Los Angeles Times has agreed to set the record straight