NY Times Admits ‘Caliphate’ Podcast Fell for Subject’s Hoax

A man whose graphic descriptions of his supposed ISIS killings captivated New York Times podcast listeners has been revealed to be a fraud

The New York Times

The New York Times admitted Friday that a Canadian man who claimed to have joined ISIS and, among other lurid crimes, stabbed a victim in the heart and pinned his dead body to a crucifix, has now been determined to have defrauded the paper, which made him the protagonist of its award-winning 2018 podcast “Caliphate.” The primary reporter on the project, Rukmini Callimachi, is now being reassigned and the Overseas Press Club rescinded the 2018 award given to her and her colleagues.

In a Friday podcast, Times executive editor Dean Baquet acknowledged the investigation’s findings, saying, “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 added, “We did not do that in this case,” then took personal responsibility: “I did not provide that kind of scrutiny, nor did my top deputies with deep experience in examining investigative reporting.”

The phony ISIS killer profiled is Shehroze Chaudhry, a Canadian resident whose captivating testimony on the project included tales of shooting a man in the head, stabbing one in the heart and hanging the corpses on crosses. The Times went with the stories, but wasn’t the first to sniff out the fakery: The internal review came about after Chaudhry’s arrest by Canadian authorities in September. After the investigations from the Canadian police and the Times itself, Chaudhry has been revealed to be a fabulist drawn to the drama of ISIS savagery. It is unclear if he ever even traveled to Syria, according to the investigation.

An editor’s note was added to the 2018 premiere of the podcast that highlighted how Chaudhry’s September arrest led to the investigation that found content based on his testimony did not meet the Times’ standards. An audio correction will also be added to “Caliphate” for future listeners. A spokesperson for the Times confirmed to TheWrap that it is “not removing or unpublishing any of the podcast series.”

Baquet raised the suggestion that Chaudhry is a “con artist” who “duped” the company. He noted that Callimachi is “a fine reporter” who will be moved from covering terrorism to covering a new beat for the Times.

Friday, the Overseas Press Club announced, “The Overseas Press Club Board of Governors, noting the conclusions of The New York Times’s internal review of its “Caliphate” podcast, has rescinded its 2018 Lowell Thomas Award for ‘Caliphate’ to Rukmini Callimachi, Andy Mills, Larissa Anderson and Wendy Dorr.”

Outgoing president Donald Trump weighed in on the correction Friday, tweeting, “Oh, they do this to me every day. When will they apologize?”


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