What started as a warm Christmas greeting to the nation from the president-elect today took on a somber tone as Ronald Reagan angrily denounced the Iranian captors of 52 Americans.
Reagan, standing with his wife, Nancy, in front of the Christmas tree, in their brightly decorated living room, was talking about the spirit of peace on earth when he was asked what he felt about the hostages spending their second Christmas in captivity in Iran.
"Well, I think it's what all of us feel in our hearts -- that here's another Christmas going by and they're still there in captivity," he began in a quiet voice. Then, with visible and growing anger, he declared:
"I think all of us down deep inside have an anger also at the idea that their captors today are still making demands on us for their return, when their captors are nothing bettr than criminals and kidnapers who have violated international law totally in taking these innocent people and holding them this long."
The Iranian government has demanded a $24 billion ransom for the 52 Americans, captive in Iran since November 1979. The Carter administration has taken the position that the demand is unreasonable and that meeting it would damage national honor.
Asked earlier if he had a Christmas message for the nation, Reagan said, "I wish for everyone a not only very merry Christmas and happy new year from us but [also] a wish that the meaning of that day could be known around the world -- peace on earth, goodwill toward men."
The president-elect said he and his wife have "understandably mixed emotions" at this time, "wondering where and what another Christmas will bring down the road a ways."
As the sun splashed down in 75-degree weather on the semi-tropical paradise surrounding Reagan's Pacific Palisades home, the president-elect also said, "There's a pang at leaving this house that we built almost 30 years ago, and yet at the same time there's an eagerness on the part of both of us to get on with it."
A reporter quipped that Reagan is the president who has everything. Mrs. Reagan laughed and said, "Oh, he doesn't think he has everything. There's the ranch, you know," referring to the Reagans' isolated spread in the California hills. Reagan explained: "I don't know if you can get a tractor and things like that down the chimney or not."
The Reagans plan to spend Christmas in their home here with their four children: Mike and his wife and son; Ron and his new wife; and daughters Maureen and Patti.
A Reagan spokesman said several "close personal friends, but no political people" will be dropping by the Reagan home Christmas Day.