More on Rudy’s Revisionism

Quick follow-up to our earlier item about Giuliani’s new ad, in which he discusses the Iranian hostage crisis. He omits his usual line about the mullahs looking into Ronald Reagan’s eyes in 1981 and releasing the American hostages they had held for 444 days. But he still implies that the Iranians released them out of fear or respect for Reagan.

Giuliani is right when he says that “[t]he one hour in which they released them was the one hour in whichRonald Reagan was taking the Oath of Office as President of the UnitedStates.” The events were happening simultaneously . But he has been wrong to suggest that this had anything to do with Reagan. If anything, the Iranians were just waiting for Carter to leave.

Politico ‘s Jonathan Martin pointed this out earlier this year, quoting Mark Bowden’s 2006 book “Guests of the Ayatollah”: All of the hostage takers Iinterviewed said that the decision to wait until Carter officially leftoffice was deliberate, a final insult to the man they had propped up asthe representative of the devil on earth.

The implication that the Gipper somehow struck fear into their hearts and thus provoked the hostages’ release is borderline preposterous. yields another interesting tidbit from the same book: The Iranians guarding the hostages weren’t scared of Reagan – they wanted him to win: They were convinced that anyone other than Carter would understand their reasons for seizing the embassy and would admit the great wrongs America had committed in Iran. (p. 554)

Not to mention that hostage negotiations had begun under Carter, that Iraq’s invasion of Iran forced their hand, and that Iran-affiliated Islamists continued to kidnap Americans left and right throughout the 1980s. Surely they had looked into Reagan’s eyes too, right?

To his credit, Giuliani was careful to back up his facts this time around. In previous ads, such as this one about health care, he played more than a little fast and loose with statistics. Maybe he omitted the “eyes” line because he knew he would get this sort of response. But the causal implication is still there. He takes the fact  of the simultaneous inauguration/hostage release and uses it to bolster a myth. Unfortunately, it’s not one that any of his opponents are about to call him out on.