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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/10/20

Fake news hoax exposed: NY Times podcast star lied about joining ISIS

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Republished from The Grayzone

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The main source for the hit New York Times podcast Caliphate lied about serving as an ISIS executioner. It's just the latest in a series of fake national security-related stories published by the US newspaper of record. By Ben Norton

The top US newspaper has been exposed for overseeing another large-scale fake news operation.

The main source for the New York Times' award-winning podcast, Caliphate, has been arrested and charged with lying about joining ISIS. The major media outlet had relied on this man's fabricated story as the core of its reporting, and said two US government officials had independently confirmed his identity.

So far, the Times has not issued any retractions or corrections. But the fake news spread by the American "newspaper of record" has touched off a political scandal in Canada.

Hosted by Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, the Caliphate podcast claims to tell the story of the rise and fall of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The show has attracted millions of listeners, and is one of the most popular podcasts on the globe. The New York Times' PR team actively boasts of its work on the "chart-topping show" in marketing materials.

The podcast has aggressively pushed the propaganda line of Syria's Western government-backed opposition. While the Times was publicly praised for its "nuance" in "humanizing" Salafi-jihadist foreign fighters who joined ISIS, massacred civilians, ethnically cleansed religious minorities, and turned women into sex slaves, Caliphate simultaneously portrayed the Syrian government that defeated ISIS as the epitome of evil.

The host of the podcast, Callimachi, euphemistically described genocidal ISIS extremists as "rebels fighting Assad's soldiers, standing up for the Muslim people," while blaming the rise of the Islamic State on the "crimes of President Bashar al-Assad" and depicting the "Assad regime" as a collection of sadists who kill civilians for fun.

The star of Caliphate was a young man using the pseudonym Abu Huzayfah al-Kanadi ("the Canadian" in Arabic). Abu Huzayfah concocted an elaborate tale, claiming to the Times that he traveled to Syria in 2014 to join ISIS, where he claimed to have killed people in public executions. Then Huzayfah said he went to Turkey and Pakistan before returning to Canada.

Abu Huzayfah created prominent social media platforms where he spread pro-ISIS propaganda and sought to recruit new Salafi-jihadist extremists.

There was just one problem: the wildly popular podcast was based on a hoax.

Key New York Times "ISIS" source arrested in Canada under terrorism hoax laws

The real Abu Huzayfah al-Kanadi has been identified as a 25-year-old man living in Toronto named Shehroze Chaudhry. He was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on September 25, and faces up to five years in prison under Canada's terrorism hoax laws.

Chaudhry was not a mere guest of the Times' Caliphate podcast; he was the key source that Rukmini Callimachi and her employer relied on. "Abu Huzayfah" was personally featured or mentioned in the prologue and nine of the 10 episodes.

Callimachi has earned fame by marketing herself as a journalistic expert on ISIS and violent Islamist extremism. The Guardian described her in a fawning profile as the "the podcasting terror expert getting into the minds of Isis."

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Ben Norton is a freelance writer and journalist. His work has been featured in Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, CounterPunch, Truthout, ThinkProgress, and ZNet, among other publications. His website is BenNorton.com. Follow him at (more...)

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