Everybody’s thinking it, I’m just saying it.
When award-winning journalist Michael Hastings was killed Tuesday in a fiery one-vehicle crash, the first question in many journalists’ mind was, what story was he working on?
Thanks to the release of an email sent hours before his death, we still don’t know the angle, but we have an idea of the topic, and we also know that Hastings considered it a big story.
KTLA was provided the email by one of the recipients, whose names were blurred out. It was sent June 17, 12:56 p.m., about 16 hours before Hastings’ death. The subject line was “FBI investigation, re: NSA.” The text reads:
“Hey (names blanked out), the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates.’ Perhaps if the authorities arrive ‘BuzzFeed GQ’, er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.
“Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radar for a bit.
“All the best, and hope to see you all soon.
In the early morning following the email, Hastings was killed in a one-car crash when his vehicle, on a nearly empty road in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, swerved into a tree.
According to a witness, just before the crash, Hastings’ car zoomed past him at an intersection, running the red light, before exploding about a quarter mile down the road.
“Was stopped at a red light tonight when a pearl white Mercedes flew past,” Michael Carter wrote on Facebook a few hours later. “It shook my car like a freight truck going by. Saw it burst into flames a quarter mile down the road when it hit a tree.”
In a longer response he posted on Facebook to Yahoo News, Carter said another witness he spoke with said, “he saw the car come off the ground at some point—maybe when [it] crossed Melrose.”
Police said the driver was declared dead at the scene, and they do not suspect foul play.
Hastings, 33, was known for a 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal (“The Runaway General”) that led to McChrystal’s resignation.
According to the L.A. Times, before he died, Hastings was working on a story involving Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite who recently sued the Department of Defense and the FBI for invasion of privacy.
In a message Wednesday on Twitter, Wikileaks wrote, “Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.”
On Thursday, the FBI denied ever investigating Hastings through a statement released to the Burlington Free Press.
Hastings is survived by his wife, Elise Jordan, a journalist and former speechwriter for Condoleeza Rice.
The circumstances of Hastings’ death are odd, at the very least. But is there more to it?
Why was the 33-year-old reporter speeding through town in the early hours of the morning? Was there a reason that he ran the red light? Did something happen to his car or to him? Is it possible he was being chased or that his car was tampered with?
In our growing police state, are there any journalists willing to stick their necks out to investigate?