‘This American Life’ Retracts Mike Daisey Foxconn Story

“This American Life” has retracted its HUGE story on working conditions at Apple’s Foxconn factory in China. It turns out major parts of the piece were fabricated by performer Mike Daisey–who drew material for his story from his one-man show “The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”

From a TAL release:

During fact checking before the broadcast of Daisey’s story, “This American Life” staffers asked Daisey for this interpreter’s contact information. Daisey told them her real name was Anna, not Cathy as he says in his monologue, and he said that the cell phone number he had for her didn’t work any more. He said he had no way to reach her.

“At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” says Ira Glass, executive producer and host of This American Life. “But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn’t think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake.”

The ruse was uncovered by “Marketplace” reporter Rob Schmitz, who tracked down Daisey’s Chinese translator Li Guifen after the show aired. She disputed much of Daisey’s story–including Daisey’s claim to have interviewed workers suffering from n-hexane poisoning.

“We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio,” says Glass. “Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.”

Daisey’s Foxconn piece was the most downloaded episode in TAL history. It sparked a huge national debate about working conditions in China. Many of the atrocities Daisey described ARE actually happening in China. Daisey just didn’t see them. Now, thanks to Daisey’s lies, we can all go back to living in ignorance about how the other half live.