The New York Times offered an extensive correction Friday to its 2018 "Caliphate" podcast, with executive editor Dean Baquet calling it an "institutional failure" with reporting based off a "con artist."
The Times received a Peabody Award for the podcast, which it has now reportedly returned.
The 12-part series aimed to cover the Islamic State terror group and relied heavily on the testimony of a Pakistani Canadian who called himself "Abu Huzayfah," and said he had participated in gruesome killings as part of the group.
"In September — 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," said the Times. "Canadian officials say they believe that Mr. Chaudhry's account of supposed terrorist activity is completely fabricated."
After this revelation, the Times re-examined 26-year-old Chaudhry's story and found multiple discrepancies that indicated he had falsified all his claims.
Critics slammed the Times, pointing to the retractions on the paper's 1619 Project and the publication of an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that divided the paper's staff so much that editors James Bennet and Bari Weiss quit.
"The Times has lit its credibility on fire over the last few years. From baseless anti-Trump conspiracy theories to the laughably error-riddled 1619 and now to this," said conservative strategist Chris Barron. "The Times might ask themselves why this keeps happening over and over again?"
Others, such as Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson, believe the paper should go beyond returning the podcast's Peabody Award and return other recent awards and honors.
"If the New York Times took the legitimacy of its reporting seriously, it would return not only the Peabody Award for the ‘Caliphate' podcast, but also insist its employees return the Pulitzer prizes received for Trump-Russia coverage and the 1619 Project, both of which also were deeply flawed," he said. "It's easy to return the Peabody because it doesn't go to the core of what the NY Times does, unlike awards for anti-Trumpism and racial activism."
Baquet said the paper "fell in love" with the concept of interviewing an ISIS fighter, which caused its usual vetting process to fall short.
"We fell in love with the fact that we had gotten a member of ISIS who would describe his life in the caliphate and would describe his crimes," he said. "I think we were so in love with it that when we saw evidence that maybe he was a fabulist, when we saw evidence that he was making some of it up, we didn't listen hard enough."