Accuracy in Media

As former hostages of the Iranian radicals that seized control of the U.S. embassy in Teheran on November 4, 1979 began to compare notes, several of them came to believe that the newly elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had been one of their captors and interrogators during their 444-day-long nightmare. The Washington Times broke their story and it became major news throughout the day, with experts examining photos and video images from then and now.

“As soon as I saw his picture in the paper, I knew that was the bastard,” retired Army Col. Charles Scott, 73, a former hostage told the Times. “He was one of the top two or three leaders.” Added Scott, “The new president of Iran is a terrorist.” Scott is one of at least six former hostages who have stated that they believe the men are one in the same.

This is being viewed as an issue that can further complicate an already very complicated situation, as the U.S. seeks to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and from continuing to support terrorism, while hoping to move it toward a true democratic system. The recent election that made Ahmadinejad the new president-elect is widely viewed as a sham. In the first place, the only people allowed to run were those hand-picked by the Mullahs who rule this Persian theocracy of some 74 million people. So at best he is a figurehead.

As the Washington Times reported, the voting procedures that resulted in Ahmadinejad’s upset victory in a runoff win over the so-called moderate cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani on June 25 had been condemned by U.S. officials. And it has long been known that Ahmadinejad, then a 23-year-old engineering student, and more recently mayor of Teheran, had played a key role in planning the embassy takeover. He had been a devoted follower of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the mullah who led the radical Shiites to power. But they and he deny that he had any direct involvement with the seizure of the embassy, the taking of the 52 American hostages, or the interrogations.

It is a legitimate issue that those held hostage believe that this is their interrogator. But in a larger sense, does it really matter? The actual leaders of the country have been involved in numerous attacks that have killed hundreds of Americans. They built the cult of the suicide bomber, and were responsible for at the very least, the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the killing of 19 more at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and countless other terrorist attacks against Americans, Israelis and other Westerners. In addition, they are clearly involved in encouraging and supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

Many in the media are having a difficult time in reporting this story. On June 30, the day the story hit the papers, Brian Williams of NBC News asked his chief foreign correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, “What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today [that] the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries, and might have been called terrorists at the time by the British crown, after all.”

“Indeed, Brian,” replied Ms. Mitchell. “And all of the student leaders at the time who now are in the power structure in Iran were revolutionaries. It was an enormously popular takeover, they all supported it. But it would have a political effect because it would help the administration in its very apparent efforts to undermine this new government and paint it as a radical government.”

So there you have it. Who are we to pass judgment? This is just George Bush on another one of his reckless crusades to, quote, “undermine this new government and paint it as a radical government.”

Andrea Mitchell seemed extremely concerned that the new Iranian president may turn out to be one of those hostage-takers, and that his election may play into the hands of the Bush Administration. In other words, don’t blame the Iranian government for the fact that it is run by terrorists who hate America. Blame Bush.

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But the Brian Williams’ comment is even more distressing. How can anyone compare America’s founding fathers to the Islamic zealots who run Iran, who justify suicide bombing, and pursue nuclear weapons for what are obviously offensive purposes? NBC News seems determined to find any reason to frustrate an American policy of dealing with this threat to the world.

A fascinating footnote to this story is the way the media have labeled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The AP did it this way: “Ahmadinejad has been the ultraconservative mayor of Tehran and, according to his associates, was a member of the radical student group that planned the embassy takeover in 1979.”

Similarly, Andrea Koppel, reporting on Wolf Blitzer’s show on CNN, described him this way: “A known ultraconservative and follower of Iran’s supreme leader, Ahmadinejad has detailed much of his past on his own website. Even listing his membership in a radical student group back in the ’70s, some of whose members seized the embassy.”

The bloggers at, who helped expose CBS’s Memogate scandal, point out that the implication of the AP story is that he has changed his views, since he was a radical who has turned into an ultraconservative. But he hasn’t. His opinions are still the same, they note. They still hate America.

If only our own media would make that fact plain.

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