‘An Institutional Failing’: New York Times Issues Stunning Retraction of High-Profile Podcast That Bought the Claims of an ISIS Fabulist


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The New York Times has issued a stunning retraction of its high-profile hit podcast Caliphate after a review found that it “did not meet the standards for Times journalism.”

The podcast consisted of a 12-part audio documentary that addressed the radicalization of Shehroze Chaudhry, a Canadian who went to Syria and joined the Islamic State.

While Chaudhry told Canadian news outlets he played no role in ISIS killings, he told the Times that he had conducted executions himself before managing to escape. The review found that the Times failed to screen Chaudhry’s accounts, relying too heavily on his narrative, which was often exaggerated or even false.

Canadian authorities accused him of lying about his time in Syria and he is facing criminal charges in a federal court in Ontario for pushing a terrorist hoax — which ultimately launched the Times investigation.

“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,” Dean Baquet,  the executive editor of the Times, said in a podcast interview scheduled to be posted 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.”

An Editor’s Note published Friday, noted that the investigation “found a history of misrepresentations by Mr. Chaudhry and no corroboration that he committed the atrocities he described in the ‘Caliphate’ podcast,” adding that “the episodes of ‘Caliphate’ that presented Mr. Chaudhry’s claims did not meet our standards for accuracy.”

An audio correction will now be added to the podcast’s episodes to ensure listeners understand the Time’s stance and verdict on their oversights.

Prior to the retraction, the podcast received high acclaim and won several awards for the paper, including a Peabody Award for host Rukmini Callimachi and colleague Andy Mills. 

In an interview with The Daily host Michael Barbaro, Baquet labeled the podcast “an institutional failing,” noting that it was overlooked due to Callimachi’s attachment to the project.

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