Obama tears into reporter for asking about Americans imprisoned in Iran
President Obama was displeased Wednesday afternoon when a reporter asked him how the White House could celebrate its nuclear deal with Tehran when four Americans are languishing in Iranian captivity.
CBS News’ Major Garrett questioned the president during a scheduled White House press briefing on the Obama administration’s recently announced nuclear deal with Iran.
“As you well know there are four Americans in Iran. Three held on trumped-up charges, according to your administration, and one whereabouts unknown,” he said, referring to Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, retired U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian and former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran years ago.
Garrett continued, “Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”
The president at first seemed at a loss for words, but eventually responded to the CBS News reporter with criticism.
“I got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails — Major, that’s nonsense and you should know better,” Obama said.
“I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content,” he added.
Garret responded to the president’s criticism after the briefing, explaining that he intended to be “provocative.”
“Sometimes you have to take a scolding from a president to get to an answer,” he said during a CBS News live report. “That’s part of my job.”
“Politics, especially those elected as president, are very adept at creating straw men … that’s exactly what the president did,” he added. “Clearly it struck a nerve. That was my intention. Was it provocative? Yes. Was it intended to be as such? Absolutely.”
Garrett added that he found it odd that the White House agreed to a deal that does nothing for the four imprisoned Americans, even as the administration has said repeatedly that it’s not “content” with leaving them behind.
The deal struck between the United States and Iran, the product of some 20 months of negotiations, has the United States agreeing to ease economic sanctions in return for guarantees that the state sponsor of terrorism will pursue nuclear power for peaceful purposes only.
The agreement does not, however, do anything for the four imprisoned Americans.
Secretary of State Jon Kerry conceded as much this week when he said in reference to the deal announced Tuesday, “[W]e continue to call on Iran to immediately release the detained U.S. citizens. These Americans have remained in our thoughts throughout this negotiation, and we will continue to work for their safe and their swift return. And we urge Iran to bring our missing Americans home as well.”