CNN Rouhani Interview Lost in Translation?

Thursday, 26 Sep 2013 11:52 AM

By Lisa Barron

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CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is hitting back at claims that the network mistranslated her interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The Wall Street Journal claims that Rouhani did not make conciliatory remarks about the Holocaust as CNN claimed. But Amanpour — who is herself half-Iranian — went on a Twitter tirade on Wednesday to defend her employers.

According to CNN's translation, Rouhani, who was interviewed in New York where he was attending the United Nations General Council, said "whatever criminality [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn." That was in stark contrast to his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who infamously called the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews a myth.

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But the Journal insisted CNN had gotten it wrong, quoting Iran's semi-official news agency Fars as saying he did not say any such thing.

"Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani's comments confirms that Fars, not CNN, got the Farsi right," the Journal reported.

"So what did Mr. Rouhani really say?" it continued. "After offering a vague indictment of 'the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and the non-Jews,' he insisted that 'I am not a history scholar,' and that 'the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers.'"

"Pretending that the facts of the Holocaust are a matter of serious historical dispute is a classic rhetorical evasion," maintained the Journal, adding, "Holocaust deniers commonly acknowledge that Jews were killed by the Nazis while insisting that the number of Jewish victims was relatively small and that there was no systematic effort to wipe them out."

"We'll leave it to CNN to account for its translation, and why it made Mr. Rouhani seem so much more conciliatory than he was," continued the Journal. "Meantime, points for honesty go to the journalists at Fars, who for reasons that probably range from solidarity to self-preservation aren't disposed to whitewash their President's ideological predilections."

That enraged Amanpour.


A CNN spokeswoman told The Wrap that Rouhani's translator was hired by the Iranian government.

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But the Daily Beast's Michael Moynihan also argued in a piece on Thursday that CNN's version of what Rouhani said was wrong.

Story continues below video.



Pointing to the Journal's assessment of the two versions of the translation, Moynihan wrote, "So to recap: CNN probably botched a Farsi translation and an official Iranian news agency rushed to its leader's defense, lest the libel spread that he acknowledged the Holocaust as a real historical event."

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