Wallace interview with Ahmadinejad was little more than deliberate demonization

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Since Mike Wallace passed away we’ve run a few pieces highlighting his coverage of Israel/Palestine. But not all of his work was exemplary. From Nima Shirazi’s March 2010 piece entitled, “ ‘Néjàd Vu, All Over Again: The Media, Pretext, Context, & 9/11“:

In early August 2006, Iranian President Ahmadinejad was interviewed on the CBS program 60 Minutes by veteran journalist Mike Wallace. A heavily-edited, hour-long version of the discussion, featuring overdubbed narration by Wallace, was broadcast nationally. In response to Wallace’s question about Ahmadinejad’s supposed proposal to “wipe Israel off the map” (which Wallace claimed the Iranian President had “said time and again”), Ahmadinejad replied, “I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government.” Wallace then editorialized (via post-production voice-over) that this “fabrication” of Israel followed the Holocaust, “which [Ahmadinejad]’s said may also have been fabricated,” and continued, “Last December, Ahmadinejad said the Europeans had created a myth of the Holocaust.”

The interview made headlines around the world and Ahmadinejad’s reputation as a genocidal threat to Israel and a confrontational denier of the Holocaust was duly cemented in the hearts and minds of Western audiences. But those threats and denials came from Wallace’s voice-over, not Ahmadinejad’s actual words.

A few days after the CBS hatchet-job was broadcast, and at the request of Ahmadinejad himself, the complete, unedited, 90-minute interview was shown on C-SPAN. Thus, it became clear what had been deliberately omitted from the widely-seen 60 Minutes version. Apparently, Ahmadinejad’s response to Wallace’s question about Israel was truncated mid-sentence and his subsequent explanation was cut outright. This is what he actually said, but which CBS refused to show (keep in mind, nothing but the first half of the first sentence was aired):

I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government and I have talked about the solution. The solution is democracy. We have said ‘allow Palestinian people to participate in a free and fair referendum to express their views.’ What we are saying only serves the cause of durable peace. We want durable peace in that part of the world. A durable peace will only come about with once the views of the people are met.

So we said ‘allow the people of Palestine to participate in a referendum to choose their desired government,’ and of course, for the war to come an end as well. Why are they refusing to allow this to go ahead? Even the Palestinian administration and government which has been elected by the people is being attacked on a daily basis, and its high-ranking officials are assassinated and arrested. Yesterday, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament was arrested, elected by the people, mind you. So how long can this go on?

We believe that this problem has to be dealt with fundamentally. I believe that the American government is blindly supporting this government of occupation. It should lift its support, allow the people to participate in free and fair elections. Whatever happens let it be. We will accept and go along. The result will be as you said earlier, sir.

No military threats, only a call for democratic elections and a government that represents the will of the people. But none of that made it into the final cut of the interview shown on CBS.

Rather than allow Ahmadinejad to speak for himself, Wallace and his production team at CBS decided to create their own narrative, shaped by decontextualized quotes, selective editing, and subjective voice-overs by the renowned interviewer. As a result, the interview that aired was little more than deliberate demonization, anti-Iranian propaganda, and purposefully obfuscated what the Iranian President had actually said to his interlocutor in order to further propagate a false narrative of an Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel and which officially denies the Holocaust.  In response to a question about the severity of the editing of Ahmadinejad’s response to Wallace’s Israel question, Robert G. Anderson, the producer of the interview segment, reportedly stated, “I made that edit and I stand by it and completely disagree with your misinterpretation.”

As a result of this undeniable censorship and intentional obfuscation of truth in service of propaganda by a mainstream media outlet and respected reporter, Mike Wallace won his 21st Emmy Award for the Ahmadinejad interview.

About Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His political analysis can be found on his blog, WideAsleepinAmerica.com, where this post first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.

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