Following the embarrassing admission that The New York Times’ prize-winning audio series “Caliphate” was largely based on the lies of a fabulist, the newspaper has issued another correction to its past coverage of the Islamic State.
Back in October 2014, the Times published an article describing captured American journalist James Foley’s conversion from Catholicism to Islam while in ISIS captivity. Now, more than six years later, the Times admits that the article didn’t paint the full picture of Foley’s faith:
An article on Oct. 26, 2014, described the ordeal that James Foley and other Westerners endured as hostages of ISIS. Shortly after publication, questions were raised about the article’s description of Mr. Foley’s conversion to Islam during his captivity. While several fellow hostages had told the Times that Mr. Foley’s conversion appeared sincere, his family said afterward that they believed he remained committed to his Roman Catholic faith and that he had adopted Islamic rituals to continue to pray. After another former hostage, Didier Francois, was released in 2014, he privately conveyed a message to that effect to Mr. Foley’s mother from her son, which Mr. Francois recently confirmed to the Times.
In response to the questions raised after the article was published, Times editors in 2015 assigned a follow-up article to explore the complex question of religious belief and conversion in a situation of captivity and duress. That article examined a range of views about Mr. Foley’s beliefs and the larger issue. In retrospect, the original 2014 article would have been enhanced if it had reflected more of that complexity.
The article was written by Rukmini Callimachi, the same woman who was responsible for “Caliphate,” which, as The Daily Wire previously reported, received an extensive editor’s note last month regarding the episodes based off of what Shehroze Chaudry claimed. Chaudry is a man of Pakistani origin living in Canada who claimed to be Abu Huzayfah, a former member of ISIS. Chaudry was arrested in September and charged with perpetrating a terrorist hoax. The Times returned the Peabody award it won for the audio series and reassigned Callimachi.
It then appeared as though the Times decided to look back over more of Callimachi’s reporting, adding an additional three corrections to her articles, including the one posted Tuesday about the Foley article.
As freelance journalist Jeryl Bier pointed out on Twitter, two other articles written by Callimachi have received corrections since news of the “Caliphate” catastrophe came to light. In each of the instances, it appears the Times knew of the issues with the article shortly after publication but didn’t issue corrections for half a decade.
In 2014, Callimachi published an article based on the account of Syrian journalist Louai Abo Aljoud, who gave inconsistent accounts of his time in a Syrian prison to multiple Times journalists and that parts of his story could not be true. In its correction, the Times admitted that some of the “with Mr. Aljoud’s account came to light shortly after publication, but editors at that time decided not to make any changes in the article.”
The final article by Callimachi that now contains an editor’s note is from October 2019, based on documents that have since been determined to be inauthentic. The Times notes that questions were raised about the authenticity of the documents that supported the article after it was published by an independent Syria researcher looked at four of the receipts and “said they did not appear to be forged.” After looking at all eight receipts and some other documents, however, he determined they “were not authentic.”
Callimachi was “reassigned” following the “Caliphate” disaster, but she still apparently works for the newspaper. No one else appears to have been reprimanded in any way in regard to these issues.
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