NPR logo First: In New York City, President Obama Grants TV Interview To Iranian Reporter


First: In New York City, President Obama Grants TV Interview To Iranian Reporter

On Friday, President Obama granted an interview to Bahman Kalbasi, of the BBC Persian service. That conversation, which took place at the Waldorf Astoria, aired across Iran. As Kalbasi notes, "this was the first time an Iranian reporter had interviewed President Obama."

You can read a transcript here. If you'd like to watch it, video is available here.

According to The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, Obama "balanced sometimes dissonant themes: praise for the Iranian people; a willingness to seek a diplomatic solution to the impasse over the government's nuclear ambitions; condemnation of the Iranian president; and rhetorical support for the opposition movement that seeks to topple the leadership with whom Obama needs to make a deal."

The president had strong words for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose speech at the United Nations General Assembly ...

Well, it was offensive.  It was hateful.  And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.

And it stands in contrast with the response of the Iranian people when 9/11 happened, when there were candlelight vigils and I think a natural sense of shared humanity and sympathy was expressed within Iran.  And it just shows once again sort of the difference between how the Iranian leadership and this regime operates and how I think the vast majority of the Iranian people who are respectful and thoughtful think about these issues.

Kalbasi's takeaway:

Altogether, President Obama's message was one of pragmatism and an expression of solidarity with the people of Iran and Afghanistan, but also an attempt to portray his deep concern with the nature of the obstacles — the ruling regime in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan - facing his policies.