Video: Did CNN fumble translation of Rouhani Holocaust denial?; Update: “I condemn the massacre”

posted at 10:01 am on September 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

CNN denies it did any such thing, but the Wall Street Journal and Michael Moynihan at the Daily Beast beg to differ.  New Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive at the United Nations this week began with an exclusive interview with Christiane Ammanpour, in which CNN claimed that Rouhani acknowledged the Holocaust in a major shift by the Iranian government. In fact, they’re still claiming that in the headline for this report on the controversy — “Iran’s new president condemns Holocaust”:

Did he actually say that, though? CNN insisted that he did, but state-run Fars News in Iran accused CNN of mistranslating Rouhani. CNN stands by their reporting, in part because Rouhani’s own interpreter provided the translation to CNN.  While that may indemnify CNN against this particular claim, it still raises all sorts of questions about CNN’s own standards for independent journalism, however.  Why would CNN rely on the official Iranian translator rather than hiring one of their own?

The Wall Street Journal took that step, and came back with a different message:

Reasonableness at last. That was the general reaction Wednesday to the news that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to acknowledge and condemn the Holocaust during an interview this week with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Previous President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had rarely missed an opportunity to call the Nazi genocide of six million Jews a “myth.” But Mr. Rouhani has adopted a more tempered tone, and the world longs to see him as someone with whom “we can do business together,” as Margaret Thatcher once said about Mikhail Gorbachev.

One problem: The words attributed to Mr. Rouhani are not what he said.

According to CNN’s translation of Mr. Rouhani’s remarks, the Iranian President insisted that “whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn.” Yet as Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars pointed out, Mr. Rouhani never uttered anything approximating those words. Nor, contrary to the CNN version, did he utter the word “Holocaust.” Instead, he spoke about “historical events.” Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani’s comments confirms that Fars, not CNN, got the Farsi right.

So what did Mr. Rouhani really say? After offering a vague indictment of “the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and the non-Jews,” he insisted that “I am not a history scholar,” and that “the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers.”

In other words, Rouhani dodged it. Moynihan explains why it’s even a little worse than that:

But 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.

It’s important to remember that the skilled Holocaust denier parses, dissects, and molests language, quibbling with the word “denial”—they typically acknowledge that many Jews died, but were victims of various typhus epidemics—and wondering why shadowy forces are hamstringing dissenting historians.

So Rouhani’s view of Holocaust historiography is, broadly, the position staked out by bonkers British historian David Irving. And The New York Times routinely—and correctly—tags Irving with the Holocaust-denier label. So how did they describe Rouhani? In an account headlined “Iran’s Leader, Denouncing Holocaust, Stirs Dispute,” Times writers Mark Lander and Thomas Erdbrink described Rouhani’s remarks as a “frank acknowledgment and condemnation of the Holocaust” (after I tweeted my objection to the line, the Times quietly removed the word “frank,” though didn’t acknowledge the change). Mediaite headlined, “Iranian President: I Won’t Deny Holocaust Happened, It Was ‘Reprehensible and Condemnable.’” On Amanpour’s CNN blog: “Iran’s new president: Yes, the Holocaust happened.” It was almost enough to nominate Rouhani as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

Aren’t our moral standards for Iranian theocrats rather too elastic? It’s lovely that Iran’s new moderate president wants to moderate his government’s reputation for being a viper’s nest of lunatics, thugs, and anti-Semites, but must so many representatives of the fifth estate—a wholly owned arm of the you-know-who lobby—be willing to redefine “moderation” and “condemnation” along Iranian lines? Using the definition accepted by mainstream scholars of Nazism, Rouhani is a moderate Holocaust denier.

In other words, we have another example of an American media outlet misrepresenting the words of a world leader in order to craft a narrative.  Sounds familiar, eh?  Why does this matter in this case? Ahem:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he looked forward to a “good meeting” with Iran and major powers on Thursday but would not address what Iran needed to do to show a genuine desire to address its nuclear program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif meets his counterparts from Britain, ChinaFrance,GermanyRussia and the United States at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) to discuss Western suspicions Iranmay be seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies this.

Asked what he needed to hear from the Iranians to show they were serious about addressing those concerns, Kerry, speaking to reporters as he began a meeting with China’s foreign minister, replied: “I’ll let you know after they’ve been serious.”

Asked if he thought the Iranians would be serious, he said: “We’re going to have a good meeting, I’m sure.”

Be sure to bring your own translators, Mr. Secretary.

Update: Can’t wait to see if CBS hired its own translator for this interview:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani further distanced himself Thursday from his conservative predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not only acknowledging but condemning the Holocaust. He was keen to add, however, that the Nazi’s brutal massacre of the Jews should be viewed in a “separate” light to the current crisis facing the Middle East.

“In principle, we and I condemn the massacre carried out by the Nazis in the World War II,” Rouhani told Charlie Rose. “I’ll also add that many groups were killed by the Nazis in the course of the war, Jews in specific, but there were also Christians, there were Muslims.”

“I’ll tell you that my government [and] I condemn the massacre, the killing of people, any group. I’ll tell you that when an innocent person is killed, we never go about asking or inquiring whether they were Jewish or Christian or Muslim. That’s not our way or creed. We simply say that we condemn any killing, any massacre, and therefore we condemn the massacre of the Jewish people by the Nazis, as we also condemn the other massacres that took place in the course of the war.”

“Why would I want to deny it?” Rouhani asked. “Not only do I (not) deny the criminal acts of the Nazis, we condemn it.”

Were there other Nazi massacres? Of course, especially on the Eastern front, but none as systematic as the industrial campaign of annihilation that targeted the Jews in Europe.  And I’d wait for a couple of independent translations before assuming that CBS got this ambiguous and weak-tea acknowledgment correct.


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Pathetic, but is anyone surprised?

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on September 26, 2013 at 10:02 AM

And yet we’re constantly told to “leave journalism to the professionals”

I bet there are some people out in pajamas somewhere with a working knowledge of Farsi that could assist CNN in this endeavor.

Chris of Rights on September 26, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Perhaps the man’s words were unclear because Amanpour was on her knees in front of him and he was a bit distracted; ol’ Christiane never met a jihadi savage she wouldn’t service.

Bishop on September 26, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Someone needs to get Christiane’s hijab from the green room…

hillsoftx on September 26, 2013 at 10:07 AM

And this is news because?

This is SOP, it’s what journalists do…and we are HotAir just shake our head and say “Again?”…

right2bright on September 26, 2013 at 10:07 AM

I bet you he’s opposed to gay marriage… if denying the Holocaust doesn’t turn off CNN, opposing gay marriage will (’cause it’s, like, totally worse).

Rouhani should have answered, “What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?”

mankai on September 26, 2013 at 10:08 AM

The cowardly left want to believe anything the islamic terrorist regime in Iran says in order to avoid a war against this cancer on civilization…

mnjg on September 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

“The Most Trusted Name in News”.

aquaviva on September 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Remember folks, the US Ambassador to the UN firmly believed and convinced the President of the United States that Iran would magically stop supporting Syria and drop their Nuke program once they learned that WMDs had been used in Syria.

These people are clinically insane in some of their beliefs.

Johnnyreb on September 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

In fact, they’re still claiming that in the headline for this report on the controversy — “Iran’s new president condemns Holocaust”:

According to CNN’s translation of Mr. Rouhani’s remarks, the Iranian President insisted that “whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn.”

“Journalism” has come to the point where the headline at a news outlet doesn’t even have to match it’s own reporting.

“Whatever criminality” does not equal “Holocaust.”

And until an Iranian regime is in place that isn’t willing to join the rest of the world in reality……. I hope John Kerry brought along the NYT crossword puzzle to pass the time during whatever meeting they have.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:15 AM

But what’s his take on the Holy Trinity?

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

“The Most Trusted Name in News”.

aquaviva on September 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

You calling James Earl Jones a liar? ;0

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

You calling James Earl Jones a liar? ;0

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

THIS is CNN.

Chris of Rights on September 26, 2013 at 10:21 AM

And until an Iranian regime is in place that isn’t willing to join the rest of the world in reality……. I hope John Kerry brought along the NYT crossword puzzle to pass the time during whatever meeting they have. Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:15 AM

That makes as much sense as most of your posts.

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 10:24 AM

You calling James Earl Jones a liar? ;0

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Damn straight, the man is a snake…

Bishop on September 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM

OT, but couldn’t resist.
Some were carrying Bishop’s address and a map of Minnesota.
http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/09/25/spider-migration-sailing-through-north-texas-skies/

katy the mean old lady on September 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Another “red line” in the sand? What would Kerry consider a serious proposal? He won’t answer because he doesn’t want the public to know if he capitulates or stands firm.
Given his actions on gun control through the UN, Americans need to be wary of what he considers constructive dialogue.

djaymick on September 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

What more empirical evidence do we need to show that the U.S. media is the fifth column. They are actually protecting a terrorist nation bent on building nuclear weapons. They all need to be tarred and feathered and run out splintery rails.

HomeoftheBrave on September 26, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Slightly OT, but not really. I am reading a book on Stan Musial and the author wrongly wrote that Scooter Libby was convicted of leaking the identity of a covert agent. I should have known. The book was written by a NYT journalist.

Wigglesworth on September 26, 2013 at 10:31 AM

djaymick on September 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Take to the bank. Kerry is a traitor.

HomeoftheBrave on September 26, 2013 at 10:31 AM

What I miss most about the former President of Iran is that one could so seamlessly call him “Armageddonjad.”

This Rouhani fellow is much more difficult to wrap into a verbal play. And yet, fundamentally he and Armageddonjad are the same – a puppet from Ayatollah Khameni.

BKennedy on September 26, 2013 at 10:33 AM

“Journalism” has come to the point where the headline at a news outlet doesn’t even have to match it’s own reporting.

“Whatever criminality” does not equal “Holocaust.”

And until an Iranian regime is in place that isn’t willing to join the rest of the world in reality……. I hope John Kerry brought along the NYT crossword puzzle to pass the time during whatever meeting they have.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani further distanced himself Thursday from his conservative predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not only acknowledging but condemning the Holocaust.

“In principle, we and I condemn the massacre carried out by the Nazis in the World War II,” Rouhani told Charlie Rose. “I’ll also add that many groups were killed by the Nazis in the course of the war, Jews in specific, but there were also Christians, there were Muslims.”

Different verse, same as the first….

How is speaking in principle about massacre the same thing as acknowledging and condemning the Holocaust?

Clearly the “narrative” is that there should be a smiley face next to Iran.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:33 AM

I’m certain Eason Jordan could get to the bottom of this. Some one simply has to be “targeted”.

Rovin on September 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM

These people are clinically insane in some of their beliefs.

Johnnyreb on September 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

No doubt…

mnjg on September 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM

The cowardly left want to believe anything the islamic terrorist regime in Iran says in order to avoid a war against this cancer on civilization…

mnjg on September 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

This is fairly close to the explanation.

I think it was a “deliberate accident” to make Rouhani look like a moderate so that Obama would not look bad for making some kind of deal with him at the UN the other day. It was somewhat drowned out in all the hullabaloo about Obamacare and Cruz, but Obama was begging the Iranians to make a deal with him so he could shake hands with Rouhani and present a foreign policy “success” to the media to make up for the huge disasters in Libya, Egypt, and most recently Syria.

Doomberg on September 26, 2013 at 10:36 AM

According to CNN’s translation of Mr. Rouhani’s remarks, the Iranian President insisted that “whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn.”

Keep in mind that according to the Qu’ran, killing Jews is not “criminality”, but a requirement for a believing Muslim. As is confiscating all their lands and goods afterward.

So, he’s actually saying that the Nazis did nothing wrong- even if they did do it.

Never assume that someone from an utterly different culture sees the world exactly as you do. And never assume any statement made by them for your consumption can, or should, be taken at face value.

Especially not when it is being “parsed” by the Western news media of today. Who also come from an entirely different culture, come to think of it.

One which doesn’t like our civilization much more than Rouhani & Co. do, in fact.

clear ether

eon

eon on September 26, 2013 at 10:44 AM

“I’ll also add that many groups were killed by the Nazis in the course of the war, Jews in specific, but there were also Christians, there were Muslims.”

Partly true. Jews were targeted for systematic elimination, as were Christians who wanted to live a Christian life instead of just Sunday morning (sound familiar?) As were other ethnic groups and the disabled (let’s hear it for assisted suicide!)

But the Nazis partnered with muslims. Because they both wanted to exterminate the Jews.

rbj on September 26, 2013 at 10:48 AM

These people are clinically insane in some of their beliefs.

Johnnyreb on September 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

You talking about the obama administration, the media or the Iranians?

HumpBot Salvation on September 26, 2013 at 11:02 AM

rbj on September 26, 2013 at 10:48 AM

About the only places the Nazis are likely to have “killed Muslims” were North Africa and Russia. In the desert, the Bedouin and Toureg switched sides between the Axis and Allied forces as convenient; according to an uncle of mine (LTCOL Army Corps of Engineers) who was there, the tribe which told you where the “tedeschi” (Germans) were yesterday was as likely to tell them where you were half an hour later.

As for Russia, the Red Army conscripted everybody. And there were certainly plenty of Muslims in the Ukraine, Georgia, etc., where the Nazis conducted their “scorched earth” campaign to make room for the new German settlers they visualized. Hitler intended the war in Russia to be one of extermination of “lesser races”, and the SS and Wehrmacht rarely bothered to check someone’s religious credentials before opening fire.

That said, plenty of Muslims from Russia and elsewhere served in the Waffen SS later. Look up “Waffen SS ethnic formations” sometime.

And oh yes, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was commissioned as a senior officer of same, as well. It was a bit more than just an “honorary” commission, too.

clear ether

eon

eon on September 26, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Never forget -she made up stories during the Bosnian war to support Muslims.

batterup on September 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

One thing to remember. Rouhani has to thread a fine line between what the west gets of what he says and his own hardliners at home. It’s not just what we think he says, it’s what they think he says.

gerrym51 on September 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

“whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn.”

Even CNNs translation doesn’t mean what they say it means. “Whatever criminality…” That’s not saying there was criminality, that’s saying IF there was criminality THEN they condemn it.

And how does he define criminality? One assumes mass killing of Jews is considered a crime, but does the speaker share that definition of “crime”?

taznar on September 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM

People who limit the holocaust to Jews are poor historians. The number of Christian Poles the Nazi’s killed would, if standing alone, qualify as its own genocide.

I do not say this to defend the Iranians. Their word tricks are despicable. I simply say it to point out that we often forget many of WWII’s victims. Not only were Christians in Poland massacred – those that survived were left to slave away under communism for half a century. And lord knows history ignores the USSR’s atrocities (thanks to lefty academics).

eski502 on September 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Sure, he and they condemn it in principle. However, he and they support it in practice, regardless of any flub in translation.

Christien on September 26, 2013 at 11:42 AM

You talking about the obama administration, the media or the Iranians?

HumpBot Salvation on September 26, 2013 at 11:02 AM

there’s a difference ?

dmacleo on September 26, 2013 at 2:21 PM

You talking about the obama administration, the media or the Iranians?

HumpBot Salvation on September 26, 2013 at 11:02 AM

yes.

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Ahmadinejhad never said “wipe Israel off the map”, either, but I’m sure neocons never cared about that particular fact.

fatlibertarianinokc on September 26, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Ahmadinejhad never said “wipe Israel off the map”, either, but I’m sure neocons never cared about that particular fact.

fatlibertarianinokc on September 26, 2013 at 2:59 PM

.
Reported by the NYT in 2005

TEHRAN — Iran’s conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Wednesdaythat Israel must be “wiped off the map” and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA press agency reported.

.
Ignoramus you are.

ExpressoBold on September 26, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Condemn. Condone.
Toe-mato. Toe-matto.

andycanuck on September 26, 2013 at 7:26 PM