Revisiting the Radiolab interview

A month ago, I wrote about a terrible interview that RadioLab’s Robert Krulwich did with a Hmong war veteran and his niece, Kao Kalia Yang, who was translating.

Krulwich appeared to sandbag the two in a story about “yellow rain,” which many Hmong in Laos insisted was a chemical weapon, but which Krulwich believes was bee droppings.

Krulwich has since apologized, but the interview left a lot of questions about how it was conducted.

Now we have more information. Ms. Yang has written an account of what happened (“The Science of Racism: Radiolab’s Treatment of Hmong Experience“).

While the show created the impression there might have been more than one interview (with additional reporting in between), there was only one, meaning Krulwich and his producers had their “trap” prepared going into it.

But it’s even worse now.

Ms. Yang reveals that after the furor erupted over the show, RadioLab didn’t run the statement the producers invited her to write.

The head of the radio station that produces RadioLab told her the broadcast had been “amended” to include Krulwich’s apology. “Radiolab had simply re-contextualized their position, taken out the laughter at the end, and ‘cleaned’ away incriminating evidence,” she says.

She says Krulwich and his companions did not look at the research Ms. Yang provided to former MPR reporter Marisa Helms, who handled the recording of the interview in Brooklyn Center, while Krulwich talked to them by phone.

She wanted a copy of the interview. Krulwich told her she’d have to get a court order, she said.

It’s a most troubling article about a troubling episode. You can find her essay here.

(h/t: Kelsey McGregor)