In Advance of 60 Minutes Appearance, a Review of Rouhani’s Hate Speech

In an interview with 60 Minutes scheduled to air tonight, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed that chants of “death to America” are not “a slogan against the American people.” But Rouhani, who is often described in Western media as a moderate, has repeatedly supported extreme anti-American positions and rhetoric.

During his campaign for president two years ago, the state-run Mehr news agency reported that Rouhani said, “Saying ‘Death to America’ is easy. We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action. Saying it is easy.”

Earlier this year, Rouhani presided over a military parade which, The Times of Israel reported, “was punctuated by repeated cries of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.’”

Rouhani’s appearances in the Western media have been attempts to portray himself as less extreme than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But those efforts haven’t always worked out.

Two years ago, Christian Amanpour asked Rouhani about the Holocaust, in an attempt to distinguish him from the Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad. Rouhani never used the term “Holocaust” in his response, and, like many Holocaust deniers, said that he wasn’t a historian and that what exactly happened needed further examination by “historians and researchers.” Rouhani’s evasions prompted Michael Moynihan of The Daily Beast to observe:

While Revolutionary Guards philologists are rather insistent that Rouhani never said “Holocaust,” condemned “whatever criminality [the Nazis] committed against the Jews,” or said the word “reprehensible,” all agree that he employed the old Holocaust deniers tricks of “questioning” the death toll, averring that many others groups were also victims, and claiming that a well-established historical fact requires further examination by “historians and researchers,” while repeatedly pointing out that he is “not a historian” (Ahmadinejad told NPR in 2010, that he was “not a historian” but that “we should allow researchers to examine all sorts of questions because it’s quite clear that when they do, they will reach different conclusions”). And even in CNN’s translation, Rouhani condemns unspecified “crimes,” while encouraging historians to “clarify” what actually happened.

CNN’s translation of Rouhani’s remarks included the word “Holocaust,” but independent translations disputed that. Later, Rouhani’s translator confirmed in an interview that she did not use the word and CNN included it in their translation anyway.

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