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Friday, March 16, 2012, 03:32 pm PT (06:32 pm ET)

New York Times removes fabricated Mike Daisey allegations in Apple Chinese factory story

After entertainer Mike Daisey's report on factory conditions in China was acknowledged to be fabricated to tell a dramatic story rather than being authentic reporting, the New York Times has removed portions of his claims from a "contributed" article it published last fall.

"Questions have been raised'

Following an exposé of Daisey's falsifications, the New York Times removed a paragraph written by Daisey in his op ed piece "Against Nostalgia," which the paper published October 6, the day after Jobs died. The paragraph originally stated:

"I have traveled to southern China and interviewed workers employed in the production of electronics. I spoke with a man whose right hand was permanently curled into a claw from being smashed in a metal press at Foxconn, where he worked assembling Apple laptops and iPads. I showed him my iPad, and he gasped because he’d never seen one turned on."

The New York Times now omits the paragraph on the piece, and has added an editor's note reading:

"Questions have been raised about the truth of a paragraph in the original version of this article that purported to talk about conditions at Apple’s factory in China. That paragraph has been removed from this version of the article."

Mike Daisey


Actually, clear answers were given

Earlier today, radio program "This American Life" retracted its episode on Apple after investigating Daisey's claims regarding working conditions in factories the company uses in China.

The show's host Ira Glass noted on the sites blog that, "Daisey lied to me and '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, it was our mistake."

Glass added, "We're horrified to have let something like this onto public radio."

An investigation of Daisey's claims by American Public Media resulted in identifying Cathy Lee as the translator Daisey said he'd used to interview workers exiting Foxcon's factory.

Daisey originally falsified the translator's name to journalist investigators and said she could not be contacted, but after being identified, she noted that many details of Daisey's show (specifically castigating Steve Jobs), and his comments picked up by reports by New York Times (including its op ed piece published the day after Jobs died) were lies.

"In my first two hours of my first day at that gate, I met workers who are 14 years old," Daisey claimed to report through the translator's help. “I met workers who were 13 years old. I met workers who were 12. Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?”

Daisey also said he'd met people poisoned by hexane, a chemical Apple had identified its own reports of being improperly used by one of its contracted companies. Apple stopped the practice and forced the contractor (Wintek) to handle the problem and to pay the medical bills and other damages of injured workers.

Daisey has since acknowledged his claims of interviewing child workers and poisoned workers, seeing factory guards armed with guns, "visiting factory dorm rooms with beds stacked to the ceiling" and a variety of other reported events were simply invented for dramatic effect to tell a gripping story.

"Look," Daisey responded to the report, "I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. But I stand behind the work. My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism. And it’s not journalism. It’s theater."

New York Public Theater, which is currently running Daisy's monologue, and Wooly Mammoth Theater, which plans to run it in Washington DC this summer, have both supported Daisey's work, while the Public Theater also noted, "Mike is an artist, not a journalist. Nevertheless, we wish he had been more precise with us and our audiences about what was and wasn’t his personal experience in the piece."

Daisey has since said his show "uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by the New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out."

At the same time, Daisey himself contributed a significant portion of the "documented conditions" reported by various news outlets, leveraging his purported onsite reporting of actual workers' conditions within China in order to publicize his play.

Truth takes a back seat to a gripping yarn

Daisey has frequently served as a convenient media identity for news outlets seeking to publish stories about Apple. Invented claims about ongoing hexane poisoning (and Apple's purported indifference to the practice) were similarly used by publicity firms who professionally draw attention to public outrage, including SumOfUs.org.

The group advertised a petition calling on Apple to do something about what it described as "a young girl" who "spends those hours inhaling n-hexane, a potent neurotoxin used to clean iPhone glass, because it dries a few seconds faster than a safe alternative. After just a few years on the line, she will be fired because the neurological damage from the n-hexane and the repetitive stress injuries to her wrists and hands make her unable to continue performing up to standard."

After collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures based on the invented claims, SumOfUs.org erased the claims and substituted wording that tried to instead suggest rubbing alcohol was a dangerous toxin.

Have you seen it?

A year ago, one Apple shareholder attending the company's meeting asked Tim Cook and other executives if they had seen Daisey's monologuist play, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which references the role of Steve Jobs and Apple's activities in China.

Cook dismissed the play, saying "if it's not on ESPN or CNBC, I don't see it," but said he could comment on China, noting that in everything from worker safety to making processes environmentally friendly "we have the highest standards" and adding that Apple is the most transparent in its auditing and reporting than any other company, reporting actual problems and taking real action.

The woman again pressed Cook to see Daisey's play, to which Cook answered, "I don't need to see a play. I know Steve Jobs," adding that Apple's executives have also been there, interviewing workers and not just management, and opening lines of communications that allow workers to report problems independently.