In January, American Public Medial show This American Life aired a powerful episode exposing labor practices at the Foxconn factory in China which make Apple products, based on the monologuist Mike Daisey's work "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." The episode detailed Daisey's harrowing trip to Shenzen, where he said he met with workers who made Apple's iPad and iPhone. Now This American Life is retracting it, saying Daisey lied to them and portions of his story were fabricated.
According to a press release, the retraction comes after a reporter for NPR's Marketplace, Rob Schmitz, interviewed the translator Daisey used in China and she disputed some substantial facts, including two of the most dramatic moments of Daisey's story: When he claimed to have met a worker whose hand had been crushed by a machine that made iPad cases, and others that had been poisoned by a chemical used on the iPhone assembly line .
In a statement, This American Life boss Ira Glass writes, "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." They will devote this week's entire episode to the retraction.
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic - not a theatrical - enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.
Is bald-faced lying a tool of the theater? Daisey also lied to me. I interviewed him in October because I had my own doubts about the facts of his monologue—which he's performed since 2010. But at the time he was so convincing that I dropped the issue. I've reached out to Daisey for an explanation and will be posting excerpts from that interview soon.