Fox is attacking President Obama's response to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and unrest in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere by suggesting he should have acted more like Ronald Reagan during the Iranian hostage crisis. In fact, Reagan said the U.S. should agree to most of Iran's demands, and experts say he had little to do with the release of the American hostages in Iran.
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Fox Attacks Obama By Distorting Reagan's Record
Fox's K.T. McFarland: Iran "Immediately Let Those Hostages Go" Because Of Reagan. During the September 13 edition of Fox & Friends First, Fox News national security analyst K.T. McFarland criticized Obama for his handling of the recent upheaval in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, comparing it to the Carter presidency and the Iranian hostage crisis. Regarding the hostage crisis, McFarland claimed:
McFARLAND: Jimmy Carter had the same situation in Tehran in 1979. Americans were taken hostage -- American diplomats. He tried to negotiate, he tried to apologize, and what happened was the country just laughed at him, and they kept the hostages longer and longer and longer ... [W]hen I came in with President Reagan in 1980, there was a very different reaction. They immediately let those hostages go.
The problem with President Obama coming out and trying to apologize and be understanding and not set a firm position, is that all the leaders of these Arab countries -- they look at that and say, well gee, I've got the mobs in the street, and I've got President Obama who understands. I guess I'm going to side with the mob on the street. They're more dangerous to me. [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 9/13/12]
Fox's Bolling: It Took A Ronald Reagan To Solve That Hostage Crisis. Fox News' The Five devoted a segment to comparing the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis to the recent unrest in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. During that segment, co-host Eric Bolling claimed "it took a Ronald Reagan to solve that hostage crisis." [Fox News, The Five, 9/12/12]
But Carter Negotiated The Release Of The Iranian Hostages
NY Times: "Complex Deal That Lead To [The Hostages' Release] Was Brokered by President Jimmy Carter's Administration." A December 7, 2007, New York Times article fact checked a political ad ran by then-GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani's campaign that linked the release of the hostages to the swearing in of Reagan. The Times explained that:
Although the hostages were freed less than an hour after Mr. Reagan was sworn in as president, the complex deal that led to their release was brokered by President Jimmy Carter's administration. The hostages were released because the United States agreed to return nearly $8 billion in frozen assets to Iran, most of which Iran used to pay off foreign creditors. [The New York Times, 12/7/07]
As A Candidate, Reagan Urged The U.S. To Agree To "Virtually All" Of Iran's Demands For Releasing The Hostages
Wash. Post: Reagan Said The U.S. "Should Agree To Virtually All" Of Iran's Demands In Return For The Prompt Release Of The Hostages. The Washington Post reported in September 1980 that Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set four terms before he would release the hostages, and Reagan said that the United States should accept three of those terms and added that the fourth term could not be met without following "due process of law." From the Washington Post:
Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan said last night that the United States should agree to virtually all the new demands of Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in return for the prompt release of the American hostages.
In a prepared statement he read before he and President Carter delivered separate speeches to the National Italian-American Foundation dinner, Reagan said the United States "can and should" agree to release Iranian assets in this country, cancel all claims against Iran and pledge nonintervention in Iran's domestic affairs.
These were three of the four conditions Khomeini set for the return of the hostages in a statement issued Friday in Tehran.
Reagan said Khomeini's fourth condition -- the return to Iran of the property of the late shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi -- cannot be met without "due process of law."
"Having agreed to these points we must above all insist that the hostages be released immediately upon conclusion of an agreement, that there be no delays, introduction of additional demands or waiting for fulfillment of an agreement," he said.
The GOP nominee also pledged not to make negotiations over Iran's new conditions" and said that if elected "I will observe the terms of the agreement." [The Washington Post, 9/14/80, via Nexis]
And Experts Say Reagan Has Little To Do With The Release Of The Hostages
PolitiFact: Seven Scholars Said "Reagan's Foreign Policy Approach Was Either A Minor Factor" Or No Factor In Hostages' Release. Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact found the claim that the fear of Reagan's foreign policy led to the hostages' release as soon as Reagan was sworn in to be false. From PolitiFact:
"Well before Reagan became president, the deal for releasing the hostages had already been worked out by the Carter administration's State Department and the Iranians, ably assisted by Algerian diplomats," said David Farber, a Temple University historian and author of Taken Hostage: The Iranian Hostage Crisis and America's First Encounter with Radical Islam.
"I don't think they were scared into the release," [University of Central Florida professor David] Houghton said. "In all likelihood, they released the hostages because they needed the sanctions we'd placed on them lifted so they could finance their war with Iraq."
[S]even scholars of the period told us that Reagan's foreign policy approach was either a minor factor in the release of the hostages or not a factor at all. The fact that the deal was negotiated entirely by the Carter administration, without involvement by Reagan or his transition team, seems to support the expert consensus. Romney made a claim that flies in the face of history and offered no evidence to support it. [PolitiFact, 3/7/12]