In the days leading up to new Hassan Rouhani’s United Nations debut, there was hope that he might be the first Iranian president to meet with the American president since the seventies. Now with his visit drawing to a close, he’s managed to anger people in both nations by sort of acknowledging the Holocaust – though how much he broke with his crazy, Holocaust-denying predecessor is now up for debate. While Rouhani reportedly told Christiane Amanpour that the “Holocaust” was “reprehensible and condemnable,” on Wednesday, Fars, the semiofficial Iranian news agency, accused CNN of “fabricating” the quotes. Supposedly, what Rouhani actually said is that Iran condemns various crimes against humanity, “including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews.”
Fars provided what it claims is an “exact English translation” of Rouhani’s remarks to CNN, which were made in Farsi:
“I have said before that I am not a historian and historians should specify, state and explain the aspects of historical events, but generally we fully condemn any kind of crime committed against humanity throughout the history, including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews, the same way that if today any crime is committed against any nation or any religion or any people or any belief, we condemn that crime and genocide. Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemned, (but) the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers, I am not a history scholar.”
CNN stood by its reporting, saying it relied on an interpreter provided by the Iranian government. However, The Wall Street Journal said, “Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani’s comments confirms that Fars, not CNN, got the Farsi right.”
Regardless of what exactly he said on CNN, Rouhani hedged again during a breakfast with representatives from several media outlets on Wednesday. According to NBC News’s translation, which hasn’t been called out so far, Rouhani said “The Nazis carried out a massacre that cannot be denied, especially against the Jewish people,” but when it comes to the “scale” he’ll “leave that to the historians.” He did add, “We never want to sit by side with the Nazis,” so that’s good.