September 26, 2013
(Ebrahim Noroozi/AP )
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)

First, the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars claimed that CNN had “fabricated” key parts of the translation of a news-making interview by Christiane Amanpour with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Then, the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section jumped in — on the side of Fars. “Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani’s comments confirms that Fars, not CNN, got the Farsi right,” writes the Journal, which went so far as to say, “points for honesty go to the journalists at Fars, who for reasons that probably range from solidarity to self-preservation aren’t disposed to whitewash their President’s ideological predilections.”

At issue is the following translation of Rouhani’s remarks, which came in response to a question from Amanpour about whether he “accepts” what the Holocaust was. Note: CNN later published a comprehensive transcript of the interview.

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.

Fars took particular objection to the portions in bold above, which, it alleges, are the “worst parts of the fabrications which totally change what His Excellency President Rouhani has said.”

The Wall Street Journal’s opinionators have concluded that Rouhani didn’t, in fact, reference the “Holocaust,” but rather “historical events.”

As the Erik Wemple Blog pointed out yesterday, CNN responded to Fars’s allegations with an elegant explanation: It derived its transcript from a translator provided by Rouhani and his people.

Now, with the Wall Street Journal jumping in, CNN seems ticked. When asked about the latest development, the network said it “unequivocally” stood by Amanpour’s work and its rendering on CNN: “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 FARS’ allegations seriously is not only ludicrous, but irresponsible.”

Amanpour is tweeting about it:

 

 

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