To TAH From Katie Burford of the Durango Herald

| July 2, 2012

In reference to Timmy Oliver, pot smoking trailer dwelling Druid;

Well, I just spoke to him. He said he could provide no documents. When I asked him why he lied, he apologized to the people he hurt. When I asked him if this was an acknowledgment he lied, he equivocated, falling back on the explanation that he was special ops but it was all classified. When I told him I was printing a retraction if he couldn’t produce any documentation, he said that was fine because he couldn’t prove any of it.

As the reporter who propagated Oliver’s falsehoods, I would like to offer my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets to all the true service members out there who really did make the hard sacrifices. I wish I could say it was a cub mistake, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know better. I feel wretched that my intent was to show the public the true face of veterans but instead did the opposite. Thanks to all that took the time to expose this falsehood. I will be reporting these findings in a follow-up story to run in tomorrow’s newspaper. (Note: the story up on the website has an editor’s note stating that concerns have been raised about the accuracy of his account.)

Jonn, could you send me a couple of comments to go in the follow-up story about why you do what you do and what should be done about folks who lie about their service?

Many thanks,
Katie Burford, city editor
Durango Herald

I think that’s some kind of TAH record, isn’t it?

Category: Media, Phony soldiers

Comments (50)

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  1. Medic09 says:

    SHE sounds like a class act. Good for her.

  2. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    She sounds like a good egg. She will make it right!

  3. usnretwife says:

    Wow! A reporter willing to listen to and report the truth! Good for her. There are so few like that!

  4. Ex-PH2 says:

    Thumbs up!

  5. Isnala says:

    WOW! She’s a class act, now if she could just get the rest of her profession to come around….how’s that saying go: “it starts with just one….”


  6. Smaj says:

    Where was her editor in all this?

  7. CombatCAsh says:

    Color me shocked, a reporter who apologizes when writing a false story. To bad she is the exception in her profession.

  8. 68W58 says:

    We’re all entitled to make mistakes in good faith (heck, as humans, we all will do so countless times). She has apologized and made it as right as she can-nothing but props to her.

  9. Old Tanker says:

    Hats off to her for making it right. My guess would be that she didn’t think to doubt a veteran. Sadly, she got burned and will probably always wonder if a veteran is telling her the truth…Stolen Valor has no victims, eh?

  10. Frank says:

    Amazing. A reporter with integrity enough to admit that they were wrong. A rarity these days.

  11. Radar says:

    Shocked and awed. Well, maybe just shocked. Good for her!

  12. Tony says:

    Bravo to TAH and to the Durango Herald. Well done.

  13. Casey says:

    I don’t know what to suggest about her request for suggestions on what to do about these liars, except mercilessly mock them in classic TAH style.

    What would one of y’all say to distilling the knowledge of the regulars here, and creating a FAQ on learning how to spot the phonies? That is, something which would be useful to those who haven’t served, and lack institutional/learned knowledge of their own?

  14. Attaboy!

    Be interesting to see if ANY of this story makes the wires or the MSM.

    Old Tanker #9: I’d kinda prefer the will probably always wonder if a veteran is telling her the truth scenario. As sad as it seems I rather prefer skeptics in this case. YMMV

  15. Elric says:

    She finally did the right thing and hopefully learned a life lesson. Unfortunately for every one of her there are thousands that either knowingly, or through incompetence or laziness facilitate the shit bags’ stories. I can’t imagine what they teach in J-School but its is obviously not the importance of accurate reporting (reporting the news, not trying to be the news). The abuse of the 4th Estate’s ever increasing power in this digital world demands a level of commitment to the truth by her practitioners that is apparently too much. But when you live in a world of moral relativism you can self justify just about anything.

    The only legal (and moral) ways to stop these toadies is to expose them for the frauds they are and then boycott the advertisers of such garbage. Hit them where it hurts…in the pockets.

  16. bman says:

    Lot of veterans in Durango. Great Place even though there has been an influx of California types in the last five years.

  17. Old Tanker says:


    It’s just disappointing that it has to be that way….


    There is a reporter that lurks here for just that reason!

  18. Elric says:

    Yup, Durango is just an awesome place…just ignore the hippies, most of them are harmless just living out their live’s dreams. But hot damn, the hiking, running, and other outdoor sports kust rock.

  19. DR_BRETT says:

    “I think that’s some kind of TAH record, isn’t it?”

    And Mr. Jonn Lilyea, This Ain’t Hell, and those who WORKED on this matter — SHOULD RECEIVE The “VALOR RESTORED” Award .
    (However, the facts of Justice Done — constitute the real satisfaction.)

  20. Joe says:

    I’m glad they corrected it. Rightly or wrongly, the Durango Herald has a reputation as a left-leaning publication in a left-leaning town, but this demonstrates they are trying to be accurate. I think the error the reporter made, and many of us civilians make, is that they just don’t understand or comprehend the motivations of someone who would lie about such a thing. When someone tells a person he’s a vet, I think the person naturally wants to believe it, and normal person’s defenses are let down a bit by the halo they think they see. Tomorrow’s story should be interesting.

  21. KidA says:

    She published a retraction for something that should never have been written in the first place. She has a Master’s in Journalism? From where? Magic Clown School of ‘ritin’ and stuff? He didn’t bowl her over with an “I Love Me” wall, he didn’t produce fake awards and orders and a DD214. He just have a cry-fest while fondling a child’s toy and she bought it. Then didn’t verify a bit of it. Then published it. And no one else at the paper bothered to check up on it?

    That’s not journalism. That’s amateur hour. Hell if I were the school that issued her degree I’d demand it back because apparently she faked her way through college.

    Ya’ll are way too forgiving. Sure she apologized, what else can she do? What she should have done is been a real Journalist instead of writing a hand-wringing human interest story and passing it off as “news.”

    She’s a blight on the profession and needs a gut check. If I ran the paper she’d print a full retraction then she’d be looking for another job. No excuse.

  22. jeff hinton says:

    I moved “Pop-gun Timmy” into our Hall of Shame (because of his reply to Ms Burford document question).

    As for Ms. Burford while we may pick on her Timmy’s story was not the most outlandish I’ve ever seen in print, Scott Witt and Wolfgang Hammersmith take top honors in that category.

    And in Ms. Burfords defense, there are very recent Special Forces frauds that have fooled/conned/scammed the FBI, DHS, US Army, state and local law enforcement etc etc etc. out of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars. So don’t feel so bad.

    They just keep on coming. That’s ok, we’re watching.
    You did the right thing Ms. Burford. Good on you.

    Jeff (I know a little about Special Forces) Hinton

  23. NHSparky says:

    Katie…good on ya. Take heart in the fact that you aren’t the first to be taken in, nor will you be the last. So nice to see that someone can “man up” to their mistakes and fix them, and for that, next time I’m in Farmington, I’ll make the trip up to thank you with enchiladas and beer at Francisco’s.

  24. ROS says:

    Frankly, it disappoints and angers me greatly that it’s become such a common meme, the “down-on-his-luck, broken veteran” crap. Seriously, the photo is of the shithead sitting in, to me, deplorable conditions looking like someone took away his last razor and bar of soap. Why is that so easy to believe for these people??

  25. ROS says:

    And I do commend her for being righteously humble and apologetic.

  26. Just A Grunt says:

    Kudos to the reporter and a big thanks for showing such class. I hope she goes on to have much success. We all make mistakes, and as they say what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

  27. malclave says:

    She’ll never make it in modern “journalism” with an attitude like that… good for her!

  28. DefendUSA says:

    Nice going, Katie.

  29. RangerX says:

    “….and what should be done about folks who lie about their service?”

    Pretty sure she can’t print any of the appropriate answers to this query.

  30. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    In our efforts as a nation to evade personal accountability, we’ve allowed ourselves to become a nation of liars, people violate their oaths to their spouses every day and attempt to justify it. People screw their business partners on deals done on a handshake because nowadays if a lawyer is not involved it’s not a real deal…used to be if your word wasn’t worth shit then neither were you, those days are long over for 90% of our society.

    People lie on their taxes every day and justify by stating everyone else does it why not me, our politicians from both parties lie to your face and pretend they are not and when you call them out you are the problem for being divisive…as a nation we’ve accepted liars as heroes, especially when they come on TV and cry a little for the camera, then the public forgives them and applauds their bravery for coming clean, I understood the world to work in such a fashion as you were not to lie in the first place and if you did you could expect to lose everything including your good name, but your good name has little value in this society with a few there is no accountability for any of the aforementioned liars it’s little wonder there may be no accountability for SVA liars either…

  31. Tman says:

    While the message is nice, we all know, unfortunately, that we will continue to see these poseurs taken at face value by media outlets and journalists.

    Like I said before, looks like they need to start instructing their reporters on the bare minimum basics of what kind of things to ask and look for when people like ‘druid’ make wild military claims. Things like DD-214, where they went to basic/boot, MOS/rating, etc. etc. etc.

  32. Tanner says:

    I blame this shit on Tom Clancy Novels and books by Special Operators who sell out and write about shit they ain’t suppose to be writing about. But I do enjoy reading them as well haha….

  33. thebronze says:

    KidA Says: July 2nd, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    She published a retraction for something that should never have been written in the first place. She has a Master’s in Journalism? From where? Magic Clown School of ‘ritin’ and stuff? He didn’t bowl her over with an “I Love Me” wall, he didn’t produce fake awards and orders and a DD214. He just have a cry-fest while fondling a child’s toy and she bought it. Then didn’t verify a bit of it. Then published it. And no one else at the paper bothered to check up on it?

    That’s not journalism. That’s amateur hour. Hell if I were the school that issued her degree I’d demand it back because apparently she faked her way through college.

    Ya’ll are way too forgiving. Sure she apologized, what else can she do? What she should have done is been a real Journalist instead of writing a hand-wringing human interest story and passing it off as “news.”

    She’s a blight on the profession and needs a gut check. If I ran the paper she’d print a full retraction then she’d be looking for another job. No excuse.


  34. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 31 Veritas Omnia Vincit:
    Bravo, and Encore .

  35. streetsweeper says:

    AS a long time commenter here, I’d recommend to all of you brand spanking new *dick-weeds* (That’d be you FNG’s) Give the woman a break. She caught the error, found out via Jonn and OTHERS the who, what, when, where and why and now is doing her personal best to correct it.

    Now then, you brand spanking new *dick-weeds*(FNG’s)need to pony up, give her credit for correcting an *error* or shut the fuck up.

    The formation for you brand new *dick-weeds*(FNG’s) that are wanting (wishing) to *cyber-kick my ass* is now forming to the left…that would be MY left, your right. Now get in line, fucking new guys, arms length, fingers touching the shoulder of the person to your right….

  36. Marine_7002 says:

    KidA and theBronze: so you’ve never made an honest mistake, huh?

    She was ‘gulled’ by someone who talked a good line of bs and she wasn’t knowledgeable as to how to check it out. Once it was brought to her attention, she nuked his dumb ass and apologized. Can’t ask for any more than that.

    Katie, if you’re reading this, Bravo Zulu. Please ignore the remarks by KidA and theBronze, they don’t represent the level of intelligence and reason displayed by the vast majority of people who post on this blog.

  37. Jilly says:

    The sad thing is that more and more “posers” have actually had honorable service. Maybe they didn’t get to do the “exciting stuff” like fall out of planes at 30,000 feet or spray machine guns in full auto, or whatever the hell Oliver said……..but so what?

    You served. You did the best you could. That is honorable and great. No need to add in the part about green hats, bayonets to the lips, and secret possum house clearing.

    It’s not just military, obviously….it’s common to see civilians embellishing their resumes these days. No honor, but for a few.

  38. streetsweeper says:

    @ #38-Jilly. None of us are claiming jumping out of perfectly good aircraft at 38k feet that I know of. However, I did clean latrines, mow and trim the grassy knoll around the company HQ, wash and waxed the CO’s ride, rode a V-100 (it was a very sweet ride, hola!) and walked a few foot patrols. But nothing, nothing ever even beat chow-hall duty…Why wait to eat when you can jump in line first? *hehehe*…..

  39. Perry Gaskill says:

    Interesting to see the general reaction of the TAH crew on this; Katie Burford got sandbagged, the error was pointed out, a nicely done apology was rendered, and she was cut some slack.

    We may have gotten a glimpse of that rare thing called a sudden outbreak of common sense.

    What sometimes goes missing with this stuff is the idea that although journalists can often be some of the most cynical people around, there are times when the bullshit bell just doesn’t ring. And if a reporter does smell a rat, the tendency is not to ask to see a DD214 but instead to file an FOIA, a tedious process to be avoided especially if on a deadline.

    It’s also regrettably true that some guy could probably wander into a newsroom tomorrow claiming to be Miss Yugoslavia 1996, and if his story sounded at least plausible, there would be a tendency to run with it just because it pegs the bizarre-o-meter. Who would you call to confirm the facts?

    And if the real Miss Yugoslavia 1996 happens to show up a week later, well, that’s another story.

    It’s never been a perfect process, sometimes it just is what it is.

    Speaking as a Vietnam vet, I can absolutely understand the anger and frustration prompted by reptiles like Gabryal Sansclair. But speaking as a former newspaper editor, I might also point out it’s a mistake to tar everyone in the journalism community with the same brush.

  40. KidA says:

    Marine_7002: Sure I have. The thing is this is her job. It is her profession. The Durango Herald isn’t a child’s website, but a professional paper. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism and holds the position of Editor. This is not a mistake – this was a zeal to publish a tug-the-heartstrings story. If she doesn’t know enough about the military she should pass the story off to someone who does. Papers don’t send reporters whose specialty is reporting on crime to the State House to report on legislative affairs for a reason.

    Like I said if he had bowled her over with fake awards and military documents I fully understand her taking them at face value. This is essentially akin to interviewing a homeless guy who says he landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong and then publishing a story without even bothering to do the least bit of verification.

    If she were a blogger with a website I’d be more forgiving, but this is her profession for which she gets paid and according to her credentials and job title she is an expert at it. No excuse.

    Good on her for apologizing but the apology should never have needed to been made in the first place. At the very least she should have done some reading up on the military and got a good grounding in it before she listened to word one from this dude.

    That’s my 2 cents for whatever it’s worth from FNG status. Maybe I’m being hard on this instance because journalism and “blogging” and “feel good read our newspaper stories” are all blurred together, but a real paper should have standards and a real Journalist held to a much higher standard than someone with a website and a concern for vets.

  41. Gina says:

    Kid A: Your point is well taken but you describe journalism in the ideal. And I’m old enough to remember when standards and principles in that field meant something. Facts were actually verified (go figure) and the news was reported as is. Sadly, that doesn’t exist today. MSM is far too concerned with manufacturing news suited to their agenda. Truth and facts mean nothing and integrity means even less.

    So when a reporter actually owns up to a mistake and corrects it, then yes, it does deserve credit.

  42. Marine_7002 says:

    So Kid A: how much experience do you have working in the journalism field?

  43. KidA says:

    Marine_7002: I wrote for the Fleet Reserve Association as their Public Affairs and Legislative editor for a couple years. No I don’t have a degree in Journalism but I knew even then never to publish anything without verifying it. Twice. Sometimes three times.

    Someone who gets paid to write every single day should know a lot better.

    Gina: why isn’t journalism in the ideal? Because we poo-poo things like this rather than holding them to a higher standard. “oh you published an outright lie that had you bothered to do even an hour’s worth of research you would have discovered was blatantly untrue, but you apologized, so you’re a shining star and the best writer ever!” Whatever.

    She has a Master’s degree and is an editor, a very highly coveted position in the newspaper world. The editor is the person responsible for fact checking everyone else’s work prior to publishing. She didn’t even check her own.

    Ya’ll can accept it and think it’s great that mediocrity is something to strive for, but me. As I said were it my paper she’d be out the door. Not to mention my staff would have to be going back through every other thing she’d written to see if it could be verified, too.

  44. Anonymous says:

    @44 (KidA): I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘accepting it’ – I’m inclined to think that if she somehow made the same mistake again next week, people wouldn’t be forgiving in the least. This is simply an area where, up until now, it didn’t seem to be an area where fact checking would be necessary. I mean, what sort of pathetic idiot would invent honors like this?

    If you’re writing a story about some legislative bill, sure, you want the facts. If it’s a story about some feel-good story, I think a lot of people approach it as a ‘human interest’ thing, not a ‘fact-based’ reporting one. For example, let’s say there’s a parade on St. Patty’s Day and some intrepid reporter decides to interview some people at a local pub later that evening to hear what they thought of it, and one guy loved it, another hated it, and a third said he marched in it with his local church or something. I don’t know of a lot of reporters who would second-guess this and dig into the background of all three to determine whether they were indeed there, actually espoused those opinions, and the third guy did indeed walk. It’d be a human interest thing, and taken at face value.

    Now, if it later turned out the third guy was making it up, the reporter would probably be more cautious next time. But with human interest stories, rather than ‘here are the facts’-type stories, there’s almost always been a level of trust that what you’re told is real, since who would lie?

    Now we know lots of people do. And so reporters will get more cautious. Let’s not blame the ones who discover this and take responsiblity, though – that’s just part of the process, and is far preferable to a reporter not caring that they got it wrong.

  45. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 45:
    Can NOT agree, that “human interest thing” should be subjective, because that would mean ANYTHING GOES .

  46. Anonymous says:

    @46: I wasn’t arguing that it SHOULD be subjective, simply that it’s currently treated as such because we’ve been a fairly trusting society. Incidents like this make us less so, somewhat for the better and somewhat for the worse.

    Our criticism is better spent on those who take advantage of our nature, though, rather than the well-meaning sorts who get taken in and then learn from it. If they didn’t learn from it? Sure, mock away. But this reporter, this time, learned, and that only helps us all in the future. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

  47. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Human interest at a parade versus a subject interview regarding trauma caused by experience are probably not analogous in most cases…who cares what some drunks in the St. Paddys day parade think or if they even marched? You are right in assuming no fact checking done there. And no harm to anyone in our society because some drunks might be lying about having marched in a parade

    I get where KidA is coming from, the interview subject in the “woe is me” PTSD story is making an awful lot of claims regarding how his military experience has shaped his current existence. Since none of his claims are accurate the story is entirely fabricated, and because no fact checking was done on the subjects claims the reporter is an accessory to this fabrication. An ex post facto apology wouldn’t have been necessary if the reporter had been doing the job they are paid to do by taking 5 minutes to do a little research.

    Had the story been about global warming, or clear cutting the forests I suspect the reporter would have taken the time to review the credentials supplied by the scientist supporting or opposing the claims. As mentioned previously a lack of respect or knowledge about the military doesn’t absolve you from performing a basic fact check on your subject.

    The apology from the reporter is duly noted. Were the reporter terminated after apologizing, I would understand that action as well. Sometimes failing to follow the fundamental components of your job results in loss of said job, welcome to the big leagues.

  48. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 47:
    “I think a lot of people approach it as a ‘human interest’ thing, NOT a ‘fact-based’ reporting one.” —

    MY comment — did NOT make it clear — I was reproaching THOSE PEOPLE who may not want objectivity; my comment may have suggested you as culprit — NOT so. Thanks for responding, so that I could explain.

    “That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.” —
    We’ll see. Track Record will tell.
    That’s why I named her (on the Facebook side) THE DURANGO KID — some of those turn out good, some bad.

  49. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 48 Veritas Omnia Vincit:
    Thank you — What would the world be, if all knew your name ?? !!