American hostage James Foley’s family slam star New York Times reporter for threatening them into agreeing to interviews and inaccuracies in her stories – as it’s revealed the ‘terrorist’ at the center of her award-winning podcast Caliphate was a hoaxer
- James Foley’s brother, Michael, accused New York Times star reporter Rukmini Callimachi of bullying the family and publishing lies about James
- Questions were raised about Callimachi’s reporting methods after the subject of her podcast, Caliphate, was exposed as a fraud
- Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, from Burlington, Ontario, claimed he was an ISIS fighter
- He said he traveled to Syria in 2016 and carried out murders of prisoners
- Chaudhry’s story, as Abu Huzayfah, was turned into New York Times podcast
- The 2018 podcast was nominated for a Pulitzer and won a Peabody Award
- On Friday Chaudhry was arrested accused of ‘a hoax regarding terrorist activity’
- The Times initially said their podcast detailed the problems confirming his story, but later said it was putting a team together to re-examine the story
The family of American hostage James Foley who was beheaded by ISIS in 2014 has accused award-winning New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi of bullying them into talking to her and publishing inaccurate accounts in her stories.
The revelations come as Callimachi is facing growing scrutiny over the veracity of her award-winning podcast Caliphate and her journalistic practices, with some of her colleagues at The Times saying they do not trust her.
‘If she told me it was sunny outside, I’d double check,’ one senior reporter told The Daily Beast of Callimachi as part of a detailed expose that was published on Thursday.
Michael Foley (left), the brother of American hostage James Foley, has accused star New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi (right) of bullying the family into talking to her
James Foley was a freelance journalist who was captured by ISIS in 2012 and beheaded in 2014
Adding his voice to a chorus of Callimachi’s detractors, Michael Foley, James Foley’s brother, has accused the high-profile reporter of threatening his family into granting her interviews.
‘She left our family with a lot of pain from her un-professionalism and lies,’ Michael told The Daily Beast.
James was a freelance journalist working in Syria who was captured by ISIS in 2012 and beheaded two years later.
Michael said he raised concerns with Callimachi’s coverage of his brother’s captivity and beheading with editors at The Times, including in a January 2015 letter to then international editor Joseph Kahn.
‘I would also like to bring to your attention, the extreme unprofessionalism and threats Rukmini directed to a grieving family only days after Jim’s horrific and public execution,’ he wrote at the time. ‘On 2 occasions by phone, starting on Aug. 22nd, Rukmini threatened to publish a detailed torture story if I did not comply with her interview request.’
The brother raised objections to specific details in Callimachi’s articles about James’ time in ISIS captivity between 2012-2014, including that he had been repeatedly waterboarded and targeted for abuse by the terrorists, and that he had converted to Islam in earnest.
Callimachi wrote an email to Michael, complaining that The Times was the only major news outlet that has not been granted an interview with the Foleys. She said the paper had been sitting on information about James’ captivity at the request of his parents (right)
‘More specifically, I was told that if I did not publically [sic] discuss my concerns with US government support, that an article detailing Jim Foley’s torture would be published,’ Michael’s letter to The Times stated. ‘She cited pressure from her editors to print the torture story if I did not comply. I did ultimately bow to her threats, gave her a lengthy interview and she published torture accounts anyway.’
In an email to Michael from August 2014, which he shared with The Daily Beast, Callimachi complained that The Times was the only major news organization that has not been granted an interview with anyone in the Foley family, despite sitting on the details of James’ captivity for over a year at the request of his parents.
‘And my editors are beginning to question whether abiding by your family’s wishes was the right thing to do,’ she wrote.
His story of traveling to Syria in 2016 was turned in to a 2018 podcast by the New York Times
Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, from Burlington, Ontario, has been charged with a terrorism hoax
The Times defended Callimachi’s exchanges with Foley to The Daily Beast, saying that editors have found them ‘appropriate.’
Callimachi has landed in hot water after Shehroze Chaudhry, a 25-year-old from Canada whose remarkable story as a fighter with the Islamic State in Syria is the subject of Caliphate, has been arrested and charged with ‘a hoax regarding terrorist activity’.
Chaudhry claimed he traveled to Syria in 2016 to join the terrorist group ISIS and committed acts of terrorism, including killings.
His story was the focus of Callimachi’s podcast launched in 2018, for which she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won a Peabody Award.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced on Friday that they had arrested Chaudhry, who went by the name Abu Huzayfah in the podcast, and described in harrowing detail his role in executions.
‘Hoaxes can generate fear within our communities and create the illusion there is a potential threat to Canadians, while we have determined otherwise,’ said Superintendent Christopher deGale, the Officer in Charge of the RCMP O Division’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.
Charges against Chaudhry were announced on Friday by Canadian police
‘As a result, the RCMP takes these allegations very seriously, particularly when individuals, by their actions, cause the police to enter into investigations in which human and financial resources are invested and diverted from other ongoing priorities.’
Chaudhry will appear in court on November 16.
His account, as told to Callimachi, was incredibly graphic, in particular as he describes killing a man in an ‘orange jumpsuit.’
He says: ‘The blood was just — it was warm, and it sprayed everywhere….I had to stab him multiple times. And then we put him up on a cross. And I had to leave the dagger in his heart.’
Chaudhry is accused of lying about his involvement in terrorism and spreading fear
Yet Chaudhry also spoke to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and told a different story, which the CBC detailed in a May 2018 article headlined: ‘Did former Canadian ISIS member lie to the New York Times or to CBC News?’
Nazim Baksh, a CBC News producer, said: ‘We asked him repeatedly, did you do anything, did you kill, did you execute, did you participate?
‘”No,” he said, “I was a low-level police officer.”‘
Five days after the CBC report, the New York Times published the sixth episode of Caliphate, in which Callimachi and her colleagues revealed they had found a problem with Abu Huzayfah’s timeline, and that his version of when he was in Syria did not stand up to scrutiny.
The Times also managed to secure a photo of Abu Huzayfah on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria, an indication that he had indeed made the trip.
Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement that the podcast detailed questions about his story.
‘The uncertainty about Abu Huzayfah’s story is central to every episode of Caliphate that featured him,’ she said.
‘The episode tells listeners what our journalists knew for sure and what was still unknown.’
Callimachi tweeted that his arrest was ‘big news’.
Callimachi tweeted on Friday that Chaudhry’s arrest was ‘big news’
She said she was always surprised he had not been arrested before
Callimachi also said that he was now stuck in ‘checkmate’
‘The narrative tension of our podcast “Caliphate” is the question of whether his account is true,’ she said.
‘In Chapter 6 we explain the conflicting strands of his story, and what we can and can’t confirm.
‘Among my enduring questions – the question that we ended the podcast with – is the puzzle of why the Canadian government never charged him? I could never get a straight answer from the RCMP or CSIS.
‘The fact that he was radicalized and pro-ISIS is all over his social media.’
She concluded that Chaudhry was now in ‘checkmate’.
‘The hoax charge forces a checkmate: Huzayfah can prove he wasn’t lying by … giving them whatever evidence they need to prove that he’s a former terrorist – evidence they lacked to charge him with terrorism the first time around.’
A few days later, The Times changed its stance on Caliphate’s coverage of Chaudhry, saying in a statement that it was ‘undertaking a fresh examination of his history and the way we presented him in our series.’
On Wednesday, Callimachi tweeted out The Times’ statement, writing: ‘I welcome the @nytimes´ effort to re-examine the story of Abu Huzayfah.’
It was not the first time that Callimachi, who has worked at The Times since 2014 after coming over from the Associated Press, has faced questions about her reporting practices, including her handling of sources, and the accuracy of her stories.
Last fall, The Times had to walk back Callimachi’s exclusive story about ISIS’ purported use of a rival terror group to provide security for late leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after it was determined that several receipts the reporter claimed were evidence of collaboration between the two groups were not authentic.
The Times’ decision, reportedly led by Callimachi, to buy helmet camera footage showing a portion of a firefight in the Niger desert in 2018 that killed four US soldiers from a ‘news agency’ in Mauritania with ties to militants troubled some of her colleagues.
The Times stood by the purchase of the video, which showed the deaths of the servicemen and ISIS propaganda, saying that it was ‘essential to reconstructing the attack.’ The paper never released the video itself.
Callimachi also came under fire after publishing a story about a Syrian journalist who claimed in 2014 to have seen James Foley in prison.
Another Times reporter later re-interviewed the Syrian journalist, and the paper printed a correction, explaining that the man’s name that appeared in the original profile piece was was pseudonym.