USA Today, Maddow and Iran Misinformation: Treating nuclear claims as facts

21 June 2013 — FAIR Blog

The recent elections in Iran may change some things–but inaccurate media depictions of Iran might not change much at all.

After moderate presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani emerged victorious, USA Today (6/17/13) reported that he “is known for his negotiating skill over the country’s nuclear weapons program.”

That is incorrect; Rowhani has represented the country in discussions of its atomic energy program. There have been charges that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, but that is an allegation, not a fact (Extra!1/12); the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies is that Iran is not trying to make a nuclear weapon (New York Times2/24/12).

In a recent interview (Asharq Al-Awsat6/12/13), Rowhani said that “Iran has an exclusively peaceful nuclear program…. Nuclear weapons have no role in Iran’s national security doctrine, and therefore Iran has nothing to conceal.”

But the notion that Iran has a weapons program is widely accepted in corporate media. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow (6/10/13) went farther in spreading misinformation:

The current president of Iran has had the job for the last eight years. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he’s known around the world for defending Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Far from “defending Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Ahmadinejad regularly did the opposite, insisting that Iran had no such program, as a simple Web search would reveal–see a CBSinterview (9/24/12) from last year, helpfully titled “Iranian President Denies Iran Developing a Nuclear Weapon.” Or as Reuters (11/8/12) quoted him, “The Iranian nation is not seeking an atomic bomb, nor do they need to build an atomic bomb.”

Media commentary about Iran’s election results suggests there is an opening to change the state of relations between Iran and the United States. But U.S. media will make that more difficult if they cannot get these simple facts straight.



Tell USA Today and MSNBC that their recent comments about Iran and nuclear weapons are inaccurate.


USA Today: Brent Jones, Standards Editor

MSNBC: Rachel Maddow

Please post copies of your letters in the comments section on the FAIR Blog.