Ira Glass confronts performer after story pulled

Mike Daisey traveled to Shenzhen, China in 2010 to view the working conditions at Foxconn.
Mike Daisey traveled to Shenzhen, China in 2010 to view the working conditions at Foxconn.
Ursa Waz

(CBS News) A debate over artistic license and journalistic integrity has erupted after radio program "This American Life" retracted a widely publicized story based on off-Broadway performer Mike Daisey's one-man show on Apple.

"This American Life" retracts Apple Foxconn episode

Daisey claimed that Apple computer products are being manufactured in China under sweatshop-like conditions. Some of his claims have been found to be false - and Daisey says it was all just theater.

Radio show "This American Life" issued a full retraction for its January report on Daisey's claims. In a radio interview, Daisey was confronted by host Ira Glass for compromising the show's journalistic integrity.

"You know I feel like, I feel like, like I vouched for you," Glass said. "With our audience. Based on your word."

"I'm sorry," Daisey replied.

Daisey releases statement

Apple and its Chinese assembly plants is the focus of Daisey's one-man show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." In it, he describes the conditions of Chinese factory workers are forced to endure as they assemble some of the company's - and the world's - most popular products.

Daisey claims to have made these observations while on a visit to a factory owned by Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn in 2010. Though he wasn't allowed to enter the facility, Daisey says he interviewed hundreds of workers from outside the company gate, who spoke of long hours, on-the-job injuries, and child labor.

In his show, Daisey said, "I met workers who were 14 years old. I met workers who were 13 years old. I met workers who were 12. Do you really think Apple doesn't know?"

Daisey portrayed all this as fact during the media blitz to promote his show. But some of his claims were never properly verified by any news organization.

Recently an investigation by Public Radio journalist Rob Schmitz revealed that some of what Daisey said about Apple is false. The New York Times, the Associated Press, MSNBC and CBS News are among the news organizations Daisey knowlingly misled.

"He's been telling the news media that this is what he saw," Schmitz said. "And then the news media in turn has told listeners and viewers and readers."

Daisey maintains that because he works in theater, he's not governed by the same rules as journalists. He says he's free to take artistic license and embellish some of the details in his story for the sake of the audience. Apple declined to comment to CBS News.