This American Life Retracts “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory”

Ira Glass:

We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week’s episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”

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.

The original program1 was riveting. Daisey is a talented and engaging storyteller. Too bad it was in part a fabrication for the purpose of telling a good story.

Kudos to Ira Glass and This American Life for a full-throated, zero equivocation retraction2.

Daisey defends himself on his website:

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. 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.

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.

Rob Schmitz, the reporter who tracked down the interpreter, is American Public Media’s Marketplace China correspondent, and filed his own report:

Daisey told This American Life and numerous other news outlets that his account was all true.

But it wasn’t.

Daisey says “it’s not journalism. It’s theater.” That’s certainly true, but the “story” was put out there as truth, not fiction.

The Public Theater, where the show finally ends its run on March 18, also put out a statement:

In the theater, our job is to create fictions that reveal truth– that’s what a storyteller does, that’s what a dramatist does.


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.

Even in defending him, they acknowledge the deceit.

  1. No longer available in audio form, alas. The transcript remains “only for reference”. 
  2. They blogged and did a Press Release about it, and released the audio two days early.