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Retraction and all, Foxconn still in crosshairs

Investors in the manufacturer say that the Foxconn name hasn't been fully "cleared" of scrutiny over working conditions despite a radio show's retraction.

Apple workers at a supplier facility in Shanghai, China.
Apple workers at a supplier facility in Shanghai, China. Apple

Despite the undercutting of Mike Daisey's claims against working conditions at Foxconn, the company hasn't been fully exonerated.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview published today, a fund manager at Polaris Financial Group with investments in Foxconn parent company Hon Hai Precision said that he and other investors will be keeping a close eye on what's discovered about working conditions at Foxconn's factories.

"The retraction has somewhat cleared Foxconn's name, but not all the way," Simon Liu told Reuters. "The press and stock investors will continue to watch how Foxconn treats its workers going forward. Obviously, Apple is starting to take serious step asking Foxconn to properly treat its China workers."

Controversy erupted Friday when the producers of the popular public radio show "This American Life" were forced to issue a retraction regarding a January episode that featured a monologue by Daisey. The actor's monologue included what was called truthful accounts from Daisey's trip to a Foxconn facility in Shenzhen, China, only to be revealed recently that they might not have been factual after all.

"Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast," Ira Glass, the show's host and executive producer, wrote last week in a blog post. "That doesn't excuse the fact that we never should've put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake."

Daisey has been entertaining audiences with his monologue "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" since 2010. A key component in the monologue is a discussion of working conditions. Daisey claimed that he had talked to some Foxconn workers who were suffering health issues after polishing screens with a chemical called n-hexane. It was later revealed that Daisey had not actually interacted with any such workers.

In response, Daisey said in a blog post on Friday that he stands by his work. Over the weekend, he also added a prologue to his show mentioning the controversy and reiterating once again that he believes in his work, adding that it's "based on fact." He told audiences that he had also added elements of this latest kerfuffle to his show.

At a showing in New York City this weekend, and even with the controversy swirling, Daisey received a standing ovation. CNET was on-hand to interview people leaving the theater, and several of them praised the show. Jane Glucksman told CNET that Daisey "was really, really good."

As for Foxconn? It's not too happy. The company told Reuters in an interview today that Daisey's claims have "totally ruined" its brand image, but it has no plans to take "This American Life" or Daisey to court over it.

Daisey's claims and the subsequent controversy come as Foxconn facilities are under inspection by the Fair Labor Association to determine whether the working conditions are subpar. A full report from the FLA is expected at some point in the next several weeks.