On the radio, Daisey tendered the non-apology apology. Yes, for his retracted episode, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” Daisey confessed that he had lied in the original broadcast about what he saw in China, whom he talked to there, when he talked to them, how many factories he visited, and so on. He also admitted that he lied to This American Life‘s editors in the fact-checking process. For a complete run.
Daisey has now acknowledged his lies, but has also attempted several defenses and obfuscations of them. On his blog last Friday, the day the scandal was broken, he stated that: “I stand by my work,” and “What I do is not journalism.” I leave it to the reader to figure what “I stand by my work” means when the work under discussion has been discredited. But the “not journalism” comment is very peculiar to make at this late stage because, as Craig Silverman points out, This American Life producer Brian Reed put Daisey on notice before the episode ran that they wanted it to be “totally, utterly unassailable by anyone who might hear it.”
“Utterly unassailable” strikes me as a laudable, if unreachable, goal for journalism. To the producer’s request, Daisey responded: “I totally get that.” So even if he doesn’t “do” journalism, he knew that he was being asked to “do” journalism on This American Life.
Daisey’s evasions and justifications have circled out wider in the last couple of days. Yesterday, he wrote in his blog that if you think that the story of his lies is bigger than the story of working conditions in China, then “something is wrong with your priorities.” He says this just one paragraph away from reiterating his apology to “anyone who felt betrayed” by his radio performance. “I stand by that apology,” he writes, before launching into a defense of making stories “subordinate to the truth.”