September 25, 2013
(Ebrahim Noroozi/AP )
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)

CNN is promoting an “explosive admission” from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pursuant to his interview with Christiane Amanpour. Moments ago, CNN host Brooke Baldwin opened a segment based on the sit-down session, playing up a discussion between Amanpour and Rouhani over Iran’s longstanding position/non-position regarding the Holocaust. In response to a question from Amanpour, the Iranian president uttered a “groundbreaking comment…, a comment made specifically to us here at CNN. Three words: ‘The Holocaust happened,’” Baldwin noted.

After running the relevant clip from the interview, Baldwin rejoined: “For 70 years, the world watched in disbelief as Iran continued to deny it, refuting the slaughter of millions of Jews, calling it, quote, ‘legend.’ But now, you just heard it, this explosive admission.”

What admission? That seems to be the position of the Fars News Agency, described as Iran’s “semi-official” news outlet. In a highly accusatory posting, Fars is claiming that CNN “fabricated” key parts of the remarks, in ways that “totally change” the meaning of the Iranian president’s message.

Here is the CNN translation of Rouhani’s relevant remarks:

I have said before that I am not a historian. And that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect on it. But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews is reprehensible and condemnable.
Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn. The taking of human life is contemptible. It makes no difference whether that life is Jewish life, Christian, or Muslim. For us it is the same.
The taking of human life is something our religion rejects. But this does not mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group now therefore they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This, too, is an act that should be condemned. There should be an even-handed discussion.

And here is what Fars terms the “exact English translation” of those remarks:

I have said before that I am not a historian and historians should specify, state and explain the aspects of historical events, but generally we fully condemn any kind of crime committed against humanity throughout the history, including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews, the same way that if today any crime is committed against any nation or any religion or any people or any belief, we condemn that crime and genocide. Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemned, but the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers, I am not a history scholar.

Italicized text added to the CNN translation to highlight what Fars calls the “worst parts of the fabrications which totally change what His Excellency President Rouhani has said.”

When the Erik Wemple Blog contacted CNN on this matter, the network responded that its transcript was based on the translation of an expert provided by Rouhani & Co. So CNN stands by the report.

We’ll see whether Fars attacks the translational integrity of NBC News, which interviewed Rouhani and plowed through the same material: “The Nazis carried out a massacre that cannot be denied, especially against the Jewish people,” said the Iranian president, according to NBC News. Sounds as if Rouhani is staying on message!

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.