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Journalist who took down Army four-star dies in car wreck

Jun. 18, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Michael Hastings
This undated photo provided by Blue Rider Press/Penguin shows award-winning journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings. He died June 18 in a car accident in Los Angeles, his employer and family said. (Blue Rider Press / Penguin via AP)
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Michael Hastings, whose stunning 2010 report for Rolling Stone led to the removal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, died in a fiery car crash Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to numerous media reports.

He was 33.

Hastings' death was announced by BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, who praised the journalist as "fearless," saying in a statement that he possessed "an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians."

In "The Runaway General," published by Rolling Stone in June 2010, Hastings quoted McChrystal and members of his staff making unprofessional comments about several senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and then-National Security Adviser James Jones, a retired Marine general. President Obama relieved McChrystal as a result, and the general retired not long after.

Following the story's publication, Hastings was criticized by members of McChrystal's inner circle, who claimed most of the inflammatory comments were made by junior staffers and during discussions believed to be off the record. He was later denied a subsequent request to embed with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but defended his work and the means by which he reported it.

At a media conference in Washington later that year, Hastings said he took more flak from fellow journalists than from within the military.

"When someone who's not part of the club comes in and does a story … people get very territorial about their field," he said in November 2010. "And they'll try to frame it as though it's about journalism's ethics or it's about ground rules. It's not. It's about power, it's about who has the authority."

Hastings' work appeared in numerous publications, including Newsweek and The Washington Post. He also authored multiple books, including this year's "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan."

He is survived by his wife.

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