Mike Daisey’s Apple-Foxconn podcast filled with “significant fabrications”

Popular radio show This American Life retracted “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” today, a popular segment detailing the mistreatment of Apple employees in China’s Foxconn factory.

The segment, created by author Mike Daisey after he visited China, aired on the radio show in January. It told a stirring tale of tired laborers, wanting relief from long hours, little pay, and sickness. This American Life host Ira Glass explained in a blog post that the show couldn’t “vouch for its truth,” and that the airing contained “significant fabrications.”

“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,” wrote Glass. “That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. … We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio.”

The show discovered these fabrications after a Chinese correspondent for radio show Marketplace chatted with Daisey’s Chinese translator. The translator helped Daisey on the same trip on which he based “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” She pointed out his factual errors, which he has also performed on stage.

Mike Daisey, who travels around the country performing his stories, responded on his website saying the piece was “not journalism” and should be taken as art:

“I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity.”

The retraction puts a significant dent in the reliability of reporting on Foxconn’s and other factories’ worth ethic. Daisey makes the point that the New York Times‘ two-piece series iEconomy — which spurred this investigation into Apple’s fair labor treatments — should show the reality of these working conditions. Thus far, the Times piece has not been called into question.

This American Life is dedicating this week’s show to reviewing every error in “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” Check out the full transcript of the upcoming show below:

Image via Mike Daisey