The radio program This American Life has retracted a program that focused on working conditions at the factory in China where Apple’s iPhone and iPad are manufactured.
At issue are statements by monologist Mike Daisey about the Foxconn factory in China he visited that have been called fabrications. The show’s producers Chicago Public Media had aired an episode of This America Life back in January based on Daisey’s one-man show “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”
In the monologue performed at theaters across the country, Daisey recounts his visit to a factory owned by Foxconn in Shenzen China.
American Public Media’s show Marketplace says it plans to detail the problems with the excerpt of Daisey's show that This American Life aired in a report this weekend. In a press release that says the original episode included “numerous fabrications,” it quotes This American Life host and executive producer Ira Glass as saying “we should’ve killed the story” because they couldn’t verify some of Daisey’s claims.
“But other things about Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him,” said Glass. “We didn’t think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake.”
Among several questionable claims in his monologue, Daisey says he met a group of workers who were poisoned at an iPhone assembly plant by a chemical called n-hexane. But Marketplace says its fact checks showed that a poisoning incident happened at a different plant, a thousand miles away from where Daisey was.
Daisey is quoted in the Marketplace release as saying “I’m not going to say I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. 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.”
Marketplace also located the interpreter Daisey used during his visit to China who disputes his account of meeting a man who said his hand was mangled while working in a Foxconn plant that makes iPads.
Foxconn has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years after reports of harsh working conditions and long hours surfaced and several workers there committed suicide.
Foxconn responded with some improvements, including pay raises, and Apple has contracted with an independent monitoring agency to conduct audits about the working conditions at all of its supplier’s facilities.