The Slatest

Lindsey Graham Did Not Say “Iranians Are Liars”

Lindsey Graham at a May 19 Senate committee hearing.

Mark Wilson/Getty

A number of liberal-leaning news outlets are reporting this morning that South Carolina senator and presumptive presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said that “Iranians are liars” during a video address to the the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City. The National Iranian American Council has asked Graham to apologize for the remark, which is sourced to a BBC writeup:

Senator Lindsey Graham, the first speaker Friday morning, appearing from Washington via video, spoke of losing his parents as a teenager, working in a pool hall and having to help raise his younger sister - and how it relates to his leadership style.

“Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room,” he said. “I met a lot of liars, and I know Iranians are liars.”

That sounds bad, and Lindsey Graham has a recent history of bellicose Middle East-related overstatements. But it’s not what he said. Watch the video:

“I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying.” The last word is definitely not liars—you can tell by comparing it with when he actually does say liars earlier in the sentence. Moreover, Iranians is actually preceded by the both times he says the word, which makes a big difference given that referring to “the [name of national population]” is typical diplomatic shorthand for a particular country’s government. See President Obama referring to “the Iranians” here, for example. 

Graham’s statement may or may not be correct. But in the context of current events, and with a more accurate transcription, it doesn’t seem to be the attack on an entire nationality that it’s being made out as.