Last month, we reported on Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, a monologue in which the storyteller opines on his trip to China and his time with workers in a Foxconn iPad plant.
Daisey’s story was the basis of an episode of National Public Radio’s “This American Life” show, and now the show has retracted that episode when it was discovered that by fact-checkers that a number of his claims were totally fabricated.
This American Life host Ira Glass was understandably upset, saying that “Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.”
Daisey isn’t as quite as repentant, claiming that his work was “not journalism” and therefore “operates under a different set of rules and expectations” from a journalistic endeavor like This American Life.
This American Life noted two of the worst fabrications in Daisey’s monologue — first, where he claimed to have met a group of Foxconn employees who were poisoned by n-hexane in Shenzhen, China. Apple’s factory audits have uncovered a similar occurrence, but it happened over a thousand miles away in Suzhou. The second, and much more egregious fabrication, was about one of the most dramatic sections of Daisey’s work.
In this section, Daisey talks about meeting a factory worker whose hand was mangled on an iPad production line, and showing the worker a finished product that he had allegedly never seen. The interpreter who accompanied Daisey told a fact checker that nothing like that had ever happened.
You can read Daisey’s response to the retraction of the show here.