New York Times embarrassed, returns reward for debunked story on fake ISIS terrorist

Paper admits to serious editorial mistakes, returns prestigious Peabody award.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The New York Times admitted over the weekend that a key part of an award-winning series on Islamic terrorism it published was wrong and as a result the paper was returning a prestigious journalism prize it won for the reporting.

Two years ago the Times won the Peabody Award for a 12-part podcast series titled “Caliphate,” about how the Islamic State terrorist group operated. However, the paper said “multiple episodes were driven primarily by the confessional tale of a Canadian man of Pakistani origin who called himself Abu Huzayfah and claimed to have been a member of the Islamic State who had taken part in killings in Syria.”

The stories of Huzayfah were not properly checked out and the central figure in the podcasts has since been found out to have lied about what he told the reporters.

On Friday, the Overseas Press Club, which awards the Peabody, rescinded the award and the paper said it would be returned.

The podcasts, however, are still on the Times website. On Friday the paper added an “Editors’ Note” explaining that during the course of reporting for the series, “The Times discovered significant falsehoods and other discrepancies in Huzayfah’s story.” The paper noted that “two and a half years after the podcast was released — the Canadian police arrested Huzayfah, whose real name is Shehroze Chaudhry, and charged him with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.”

“Canadian officials say they believe that Mr. Chaudhry’s account of supposed terrorist activity is completely fabricated,” which led the paper to the conclusion that the material they published attributed to Chaudhry was fake and “did not meet our standards for accuracy.”

In a major mea culpa, the Times admitted their editorial oversight was deficient and the material Chadhry supplied them was not properly vetted by reporters and editors whose “fact-checking process were not sufficiently rigorous.” The newspaper’s staff was “dismissive of the lack of corroboration of essential aspects of Mr. Chaudhry’s account,” the apology stated.

The episode is the latest in a series of scandals that have rocked the 169-year-old newspaper. Earlier this year Times editor Bari Weiss resigned from the paper, citing a toxic editorial environment that supported cancel culture that forced her to quit because she had become “the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views.”

“A new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else,” Weiss commented.