New York Times has admitted an ‘institutional failure’ on its part following the ‘Caliphate controversy’. Rukmini Callimachi is on the dock for her podcast ‘Caliphate’ which sought to provide an insider perspective into the macabre word of the Islamic State. ‘Caliphate’ relied heavily on the account of one Abu Huzayfah al-Kanadi. He claimed to be an ISIS fighter and provided a vivid description of executions he had carried out.
The only problem was that the supposed terrorist was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under the hoax law of the country for allegedly lying about the crimes he allegedly committed in the Middle-East. The supposed ISIS fighter has been identified as one Sheroze Chaudhry with origins in Pakistan. In a statement on Friday, the NYT admitted that the podcast “did not meet the standards for Times journalism.”
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said that leaders in the newsroom were to blame, including himself. “When The New York Times does deep, big, ambitious journalism in any format, we put it to a tremendous amount of scrutiny at the upper levels of the newsroom,” he said, before adding, “We did not do that in this case.”
“And I think that I or somebody else should have provided that same kind of scrutiny, because it was a big, ambitious piece of journalism. And I did not provide that kind of scrutiny, nor did my top deputies with deep experience in examining investigative reporting,” he said. The internal review was initiated after Sheroze Chaudhry was arrested and charged with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.
“From the outset, ‘Caliphate’ should have had the regular participation of an editor experienced in the subject matter,” an Editors’ Note said. “In addition, The Times should have pressed harder to verify Mr. Chaudhry’s claims before deciding to place so much emphasis on one individual’s account.”
Baquet also said, “For the most part we’ve gotten everything right. But I think this fell through the cracks, because it was a different way of telling stories than The New York Times is used to. We didn’t have a system in place to manage that, to help the audio team manage that.” He admitted that the NYT was possibly “duped” by Sheroze Chaudhry.
The Daily Podcast scheduled to be released on Friday also discusses the lapses in a conversation between Baquet and Michael Barbaro, the host of the Daily podcast. He said that “the reporting team couldn’t find any independent evidence to back up his story of being an ISIS executioner in Syria.” He added, “I think this guy, we now believe, was a con artist, who made up most if not all that he told us.”
Rukmini Callimachi came under intense criticism from those on the Left who alleged that her podcast fueled Islamophobia. Shekhar Gupta had also addressed the matter on The Print’s YouTube channel where he called journalists attacking Rukmini Callimachi ‘vultures’. She will continue to work for the NYT but will be given a different beat.