Mike Daisey responds to ‘This American Life’ retraction of Apple supply story


HANDOUT PHOTO: Mike Daisey in "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," (Photo by Stan Barouh) (Courtesy of The Public Theater. Contact Alix Milne for re-use: amilne@publictheater.org) (Stan Barouh)
March 16, 2012

The public radio program “This American Life” retracted its story “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” on Friday, saying that the piece “contained significant fabrications.”

The piece, which was broadcast in January, helped set off a protest movement that grew after the New York Times ran articles on conditions in factories that are a part of Apple’s supply chain. The radio program was based on Mike Daisey’s show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” which debuted in Washington in 2011 and is scheduled to return to the Wooly Mammoth Theater Company later this month.

According to a statement from “This American Life,” Daisey lied to the producers of the show about conversations he said he had with factory workers and others in China.

A transcript of the original show says that the radio program “fact checked everything that was checkable,” recognizing that Daisey is an actor, not a reporter. But Rob Schmitz, a reporter for the “Marketplace” radio show, raised questions about “This American Life” program. He located Daisey’s translator and found several inconsistencies between her account of what happened and what was in the monologue.

“This American Life” plans to air an hour-long program on Friday detailing the errors in its piece. It has also canceled a planned live broadcast of Daisey’s monologue and refunded the price of those tickets.

In a statement, Daisey said that he stands by his work, but said that the monologue he has been touring nationwide is a “combination of fact, memoir and dramatic license.”

“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,” Daisey said in a statment. “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.”

Daisey went on to say that he is not a journalist, and does not consider what he does journalism, and that he regrets allowing “This American Life” to air his monologue.

“But this is my only regret,” he said. “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.”

Apple has responded to criticism about the reported labor conditions in its factories by releasing a list of its suppliers in addition to its normal report on its factories. The company also joined the Fair Labor Association, a group that has already conducted independent audits of some Apple factories.

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Apple store protests taking place around the world Thursday

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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