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Iranian state-run media criticized CNN on Friday for running what it claimed is a “falsified translation” of remarks made by Iranian President Hassan Rowhani during a recent interview with the American news network.
CNN has been engulfed in controversy following an interview earlier this week with Rowhani in which he surprised observers by appearing to acknowledge and condemn the Holocaust.
“I have said before that I am not a historian personally and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is the historians that should reflect on it,” Rowhani was quoted on CNN as saying by a translator provided by the Iranian government.
The public denunciation was hailed as a remarkable reversal from the Iranian president, whose predecessor and regime allies regularly denied the Holocaust and advocated killing Jews in Israel.
However, the Iranian state media and independent translators quickly criticized CNN for putting words in Rowhani’s mouth.
Transcripts of the interview, during which Rowhani spoke Farsi, show that he did not use the word “Holocaust,” a revelation that significantly altered the nature of his remarks and called CNN’s integrity into question.
CNN stands by its Iranian government-provided translation, which is the only version of the interview in which Rowhani is quoted as using the word “Holocaust.”
“CNN unequivocally stands by Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Iranian President Rouhani,” a CNN spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday. “In the interview she asked him about the Holocaust and his answer—through his own translator—is clear. The fact that some respected news outlets are taking [Iran’s Fars News Agency’s] allegations seriously is not only ludicrous, but irresponsible.”
The CNN official would not comment on whether the translation was run by a third party before being aired. She also would not comment on how the word Holocaust made its way into the translation when Rowhani is not heard saying it.
Rowhani only refers to “historical events” following Amanpour’s question.
A search of the official translation posted to Rowhani’s Iranian website shows that Amanpour used the word Holocaust (“هولوكاست” in Farsi) in her question, but that it was not repeated in Rowhani’s answer.
Wall Street Journal editor Sohrab Ahmari, a native Iranian who is fluent in Farsi, first noted this fact on Twitter.
Fars News Agency’s editor-in-chief blasted CNN, saying that it would be wise to take some journalistic lessons from the state-run media outlet.
“When CNN aired an interview with Iran's President Hassan Rowhani this week that misled the public and the world media through its falsified translation of the president's remarks about the Holocaust, and when, after FNA's protest, it sought to project the blame on others, many, specially here in Tehran, started wondering if the American network would have shrugged off an apology for misinforming the public, had a similar case happened in an interview with U.S. President Barack Obama,” wrote Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm.
Khoshcheshm—as well as other media observers in America—said that CNN’s defense does little to answer lingering questions.
Even though Rowhani’s translator can be heard saying Holocaust, Rowhani himself did not utter the word.
“This makes the case even worse because now they insist on insulting the public understanding, unless we come to believe that CNN and its host are so lost that they are not acquainted with professional courtesy, honesty, trustworthiness, truthfulness, and professionalism,” Khoshcheshm wrote.
“CNN officials and Amanpour seem to be escaping or ignoring their responsibility,” he wrote.
CNN should have had the translation verified by a third party, per standard journalistic norms, Khoshcheshm wrote.
“We cannot ignore the fact that the network should have first fulfilled its vital responsibility for checking the veracity, authenticity and trustworthiness of the translation of the remarks of the president of a country about such an important issue as the recognition or rejection of the Holocaust, especially when it is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran speaking about this topic,” he wrote.
Amanpour defended the translation and dismissed her critics as “extremists.”
“Stunned by willingness of [Wall Street Journal editorial page] and others to jump into bed with Iranian extremist mouthpiece like Fars,” she wrote on Twitter.