- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2020

The New York Times revealed Friday morning that its award-winning 2018 podcast “Caliphate” about the Islamic State terrorist group did not meet the paper’s “standards for accuracy.”

Following a more than two-month internal investigation, The Times found that the 12-part audio documentary, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won a Peabody Award in 2019, focused too heavily on the false or exaggerated accounts of Shehroze Chaudhry, a man who was charged by Canadian authorities in September with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.

“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,” executive editor Dean Baquet said in a podcast interview Friday.

“We did not do that in this case,” he continued. “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.”

Mr. Baquet said the reporting team couldn’t find any independent evidence to back up Mr. Chaudhry’s story of being an Islamic State executioner in Syria.

“I think this guy, we now believe, was a con artist, who made up most if not all that he told us,” he said, adding that the fault ultimately lies with the paper.

“Look, there was a well-known reporter involved in it — Rukmini Callimachi,” he said. “But this failing isn’t about any one reporter. I think this was an institutional failing.”

Ms. Callimachi’s byline has not appeared in The Times since the start of the review process, The Times reported. Mr. Baquet said she has been reassigned to a new beat.

“I think it’s hard to continue covering terrorism after what happened with this story. But I think she’s a fine reporter,” he said.

Ms. Callimachi declined to comment to The Times.

An editors’ note on the podcast now reads, in part: “The hoax charge led The Times to investigate what Canadian officials had discovered, and to re-examine Mr. Chaudhry’s account and the earlier efforts to determine its validity. This new examination found a history of misrepresentations by Mr. Chaudhry and no corroboration that he committed the atrocities he described in the ‘Caliphate’ podcast. As a result, The Times has concluded that the episodes of ‘Caliphate’ that presented Mr. Chaudhry’s claims did not meet our standards for accuracy.”

An audio correction will also be added to each episode.

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