New York Times Podcast Star Pressured Media to 'Temper Their Critiques' of Caliphate Podcast: Report

The host of a popular New York Times podcast pressured several journalists to soften their criticism of the paper over the investigation into and retraction of its Caliphate podcast, according to NPR media reporter David Folkenflik.

Michael Barbaro, host of the Times' The Daily podcast, reportedly leant on multiple journalists who were critical of the newspaper's handling of the Caliphate scandal. The Times launched an investigation of its own reporting when it emerged that one of the Caliphate's central figures had lied about his supposed role as an Islamic State fighter and executioner in Syria.

Folkenflik said he and at least three others were pressed privately by Barbaro to "temper their critiques" of the Caliphate controversy. Others included NPR host and former Middle East correspondent Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, Folkenflik wrote.

Barbaro hosted a corrective podcast last week to help build back trust in the Times after the Caliphate's central storyline collapsed. Led by star terrorism reporter and host Rukmini Callimachi, the Caliphate team made Canadian-Pakistani Shehroze Chaudhry into its key character, despite signs he could be lying about his claimed role as an ISIS executioner.

Chaudhry has now been charged by Canadian authorities for lying about being an ISIS executioner in Syria. Times follow-up reporting found no evidence that Chaudhry had ever joined ISIS, killed anyone, or even traveled to Syria.

Barbaro interviewed Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet for the 30-minute corrective show last week. He also spoke with investigative correspondent Mark Mazzetti, who oversaw the team of Times reporters tasked with re-reporting the Caliphate story.

But Barbaro did not mention his close ties with the Caliphate podcast and its staff during the corrective. The opening episodes of Caliphate ran as part of The Daily, with several staffers from podcast eventually joining the Caliphate team as it grew in popularity. Barbaro is also engaged to Caliphate executive producer Lisa Tobin.

Barbaro has defended the Caliphate team on Twitter. In one tweet, he replied to a post by Wemple saying: "Several episodes of the series do not touch on Chaudhry and their accuracy is not in question."

Wemple said the Times should not have assigned Barbaro to interview Baquet, given how close he is to Caliphate. "I think it's disqualifying and it's certainly blinding," Wemple told NPR.

"I don't think Michael should have been involved in, you know, in this particular aspect of it. But he is the voice of The New York Times."

New York Times HQ amid Caliphate fallout
This file photo shows The New York Times building on June 30, in New York City. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty