Duke, CBS News retract stories about Duke security guard after questions about his military experience arise

<p>Duke Today published a news release about two students who raised money to send security guard&nbsp;Martin Slutsky&nbsp;to a Duke basketball game but later removed the article after concerns regarding his claims to be a war veteran emerged.&nbsp;</p>

Duke Today published a news release about two students who raised money to send security guard Martin Slutsky to a Duke basketball game but later removed the article after concerns regarding his claims to be a war veteran emerged. 

After questions arose about the accuracy of a Duke security guard's claim to be a war veteran, the University has asked his employer—AlliedBarton Security Services—to reassign him to work off-campus and retracted a news release that highlights his claims of military service.

Martin Slutsky has been a fixture at Perkins Library as a security guard during the late-night shift. In February, sophomores Kayla Schulz and Lauren Perry-Carrera posted a GoFundMe campaign in the All Duke Facebook page to send Slutsky to the men's basketball home game against Florida State University Feb. 25. 

Perry-Carrera's Facebook post noted that Slutsky had never attended a basketball game, despite working at Duke for 12 years. The post also called for students to donate money for tickets and reward Slutsky for his "incredible service to our country in the Vietnam War and being a first-responder to 9/11."

The University published a Duke Today news release Feb. 25—the day of the home game against FSU—drawing attention to the students' efforts.

CBS News reported on the students' initiative as well, with "CBS This Morning" airing a story Feb. 26 in which correspondent Kenneth Craig interviewed Slutsky, Schulz and Perry-Carrera.

“Marty Slutsky has been protecting and serving others for years,” Craig said in the segment. “He told me about his time in Vietnam and nearly three decades with New York City’s fire department.”

“What a great story—isn’t it?” host Charlie Rose, Trinity '64 and Law School '68, said on "CBS This Morning" after the story. “I love the fact that the students did this for him.”

CBS News originally posted both an online article and a video segment about Slutsky on its website.

Since that time, however, concerns have arisen that Slutsky's story could be inaccurate. The University has taken down its Duke Today news release and CBS has removed the video segment from its website. The Chronicle saved copies of both prior to them being taken down.

Questionable claims

Security guard Martin Slutsky was well-known among students who studied late at Perkins Library. According to the retracted Duke Today article, Slutsky told Schulz and Perry-Carrera that he had served in Vietnam, received the “Bronze Medal” and the Purple Heart and, as a fire inspector, was among the first responders at the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Schulz and Perry-Carrera created a GoFundMe campaign Feb. 17 to raise $430 and send Slutsky to the Duke men's basketball game against FSU.

Slutsky later told "CBS This Morning" that he had never attended a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium because he could not afford the tickets. The GoFundMe campaign reached its fundraising goal within a single day, and had raised $803 by the time of this story's publication.

"We wanted to buy him tickets, and we were just going to do it ourselves and not make it a public thing," Schulz said. "Then we saw that [the tickets] were two hundred and something each, so we figured we'd open it up and see if people would be willing to contribute to it, and they were."

Perry-Carrera declined to comment. Speaking to The Chronicle, Slutsky noted that he was actually “skeptical” about the GoFundMe campaign, saying it made him “nervous.”

After news reports on Slutsky’s story were published, however, doubts arose about the security guard’s claims.

Keith Lawrence, Duke's executive director of news and communications, issued a statement to The Chronicle Wednesday that an individual contacted the University "shortly after" the reports with questions about Slutsky’s background.

Lawrence wrote that the Duke University Police Department then forwarded these concerns to Slutsky’s employer, AlliedBarton.

“Allied subsequently notified Duke that it could not confirm the information reported in the news stories,” Lawrence said. “Upon learning that, Duke requested that he be removed from any assignments on campus and took the unusual step of removing the Duke Today story because some of the details that Mr. Slutsky provided for the story were incorrect.”

Lawrence’s statement did not indicate when Slutsky was relocated off-campus or when the Duke Today release was taken down.

CBS News also issued a correction to its original article Thursday, which noted that it had determined Slutsky “was never a member of New York City’s Fire Department" and that it was “unable to confirm his contention of military service.”

Richard Huff, executive director of communications at CBS News, explained to The Chronicle that CBS was unable to confirm Slutsky's claims immediately before airing the piece in February.

“We requested verification of his service from both the U.S. Military and the [Fire Department of the City of New York] prior to the piece airing, however, no confirmation was immediately available,” Huff wrote in an email.

The Chronicle reached out to the National Personnel Records Center, the government office responsible for holding military records that date back more than 15 years. A NPRC congressional line call operator told The Chronicle that the Center has no person matching Slutsky's name in its databases.

“As far as those names and dates, no veteran has that name or that date who is actually a veteran in our system,” the NPRC congressional line call operator said.

Slutsky responds

The Chronicle spoke with Slutsky about his experience during the 9/11 attacks and his military background during interviews April 21 and April 26, at which point he had not been removed from his on-campus position in Perkins Library.

Slutsky acknowledged that it was difficult to prove his military service because his records had been “expunged.”

Elizabeth Dellamano, a NPRC archives technician, said it was possible that part of a military record could be expunged depending on the type of operations a service member was involved in.

She added, however, that the NPRC should still be able to confirm that he was a veteran in its system, even if part of his record had been expunged.

Slutsky has also made contradictory statements about his work in New York at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks. He told The Chronicle in April that he was a fire inspector—a position in which one examines buildings and ensures that fire codes are met.

However, in a November interview with senior Ying Wang, Slutsky referred to himself as a firefighter.

“Most of us firefighters and police, National Guard, we were carrying body parts to the makeshift morgue, so people can identify the people who died in the buildings," Slutsky said in the interview.

Wang told The Chronicle that, at the time of the interview, he did not have any reason to suspect anything Slutsky said was potentially inaccurate. 

“I typically take people at their word,” Wang said. “Any other answer other than what the truth is, is probably unexpected.”

The press office for the Fire Department of the City of New York confirmed April 25 that Slutsky was never employed there.

“We ran the name in our records and do not have anyone by that name as an employee past or present of the FDNY,” wrote spokesman Frank Dwyer in an email.

When asked to reconcile the FDNY response with his earlier statements, Slutsky told The Chronicle he was a contracted fire inspector who worked independently from the FDNY, and that he mainly provided perimeter security following the 9/11 attacks. He said that he did not enter the twin towers while performing these duties.

“Everybody is proportionate with what you say,” Slutsky said. “You tell them one thing, and they make it a big thing. I was there, I can’t say I wasn’t there.”

Slutsky acknowledged, however, that he was unable to definitively prove he was in the army.

“With the Army, I can say I was there, but I can’t prove that I was there,” Slutsky told The Chronicle. “I have no proof.”

Slutsky declined to comment further on the story Friday prior to publication. 


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