Reuters and Ahmadinejad: Anatomy of a Dangerous Misquote

Headlines are designed to grab the reader’s attention and pull ‘em in.

Today, Reuters rolled out a serious eye-grabber: In New York, defiant Ahmadinejad says Israel will be “eliminated”

Just sounds like par for the course when it comes to Iran’s dangerous doom-dealer, right?

Well, there is a bit of a problem.

You see, the headline doesn’t quite match the actual quote in the story. Rather than delivering on their big tease with a blustering rant about destroying Israel with a hail of newly-minted nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad’s quote in paragraph eleven of the story comes across a bit differently:

“We don’t even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they (the Israelis) represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated.”

In the story, that quote follows a number of other quotes responding to questions about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, to which Ahmadinejad offers a number of dismissive responses and some blustery posturing about Iran’s centuries-long history and fearlessness in the face of these threats:

“Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists,” Ahmadinejad, in New York for this week’s U.N. General Assembly, told reporters. “We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves.”


“We do believe that they have found themselves at a dead end and they are seeking new adventures in order to escape this dead end. Iran will not be damaged with foreign bombs,” Ahmadinejad said, speaking through an interpreter at his Manhattan hotel.

Put into the context of the full interview and, even more alarming, taking the actual quote referenced by Reuters in their sexed-up headline, it seems that Ahmadinejad is referring to threats made by Netanyahu and that Iran, which, sadly, he is speaking for in this interview, simply “eliminates” the “minimal disturbances that come into the picture” regarding the threats being made against it. It sounds like Ahmadinejad is saying he disregards the threats being made.

That has far different implications than those stated in Reuters’ eye-grabbing headline. And with the talk of war at a fever pitch, and the tension in the region rising faster than a Predator drone on take-off, it might be more important than ever for a much-respected news source to pay close attention to these details.

Perhaps something was lost in translation. But the alarming part of this is that we are not comparing quotes from various sources. No, the misquote featured in the headline is misquoting a decidedly less incendiary quote found in the story itself!

This is not a small matter, particularly when it comes to Iran, Ahmadinejad, Israel and the hurly-burly of Middle East diplomacy—and the role news plays in shaping public opinion as nations dance on the precipice of war.

Reuters takes this fast and loose word game even further by following up the quote in question with this little remark:

In 2005, Ahmadinejad called Israel a “tumor” and echoed the words of the former Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, by saying that Israel should be wiped off the map.

Apparently, the folks at Reuters haven’t been reading newspapers.

Why? Because he never actually said it.

This misquote, which entered the public’s consciousness in 2005 and been repeated ad infinitum by politicians and war advocates, has been thoroughly debunked by Professor Juan Cole and a real, live Farsi speaker at the Mossadegh Project. In fact, the story was featured in the October 05, 2011 edition of the Washington Post—hardly an obscure or little-read news source.

Even more damning, Dan Meridor, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, admitted in an interview that Ahmadinejad did not call for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” This story in the New York Times ran on April 17, 2012 and in it the infamous misquote is debunked yet again:

Mr. Meridor said that Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had said repeatedly “that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right, but, ‘It will not survive.’”

But that still doesn’t quite get there. According to Cole and the Mossadegh Project, the translation of Ahmadinejad’s “original statement in Persian did not say that Israel should be wiped from the map, but instead that it would collapse.”

And all of this well-established debunking was lost on the folks at Reuters as they simply compounded an ongoing error with a brand new, attention-grabbing error of their own creation.

This is not meant as a defense of Ahmadinejad or the Iranian regime. Obviously, Ahmadinejad says plenty of incendiary and outrageous things all by himself. He doesn’t need to be misquoted to look like a lunatic.

But accurate news and precise translation are so critically important in matters of war, of diplomacy and to the future of those who would die if the rhetoric finally escalates beyond misquotes…to missiles.

A few words are not the only thing that might get lost in translation. How unfortunate it would be if tens of thousands of lives were lost as well.

Liked it? Take a second to support Newsvandal on Patreon!

'Reuters and Ahmadinejad: Anatomy of a Dangerous Misquote' have 23 comments

  1. September 25, 2012 @ 1:58 pm leslie griffith

    Joe,this is exactly how wars begin.

    You are not only a historian, but you are an incredibly aware reporter–one who understands there are huge consequences resulting from mis-quotes—particularly in an election year with both sides trying to snuggle up to Israel.

    And,Reuters of all places!? The media is getting used as a tool by so many sides. As you point out, we must be extra cautious now. Our children deserve that.

  2. September 25, 2012 @ 2:56 pm Tom O'Neill

    I’m saddened to see Reuters sexing up “news from Amadinejad.” I remember a lengthy Bill Moyer’s review of the lead-in to the invasion of Iraq. Moyers said, with documentation to make the case, that Reuters had been a stalwart holdout against the “they-have- weapons-of-mass-destruction” drumbeat that led to the smashing of a country of 25,000,000 fellow human beings. Reuters should be as responsible now as it was then. When I heard the Republican circus of clowns trying to out-piss each other a few months ago over who would do the worst things to Iran, I thought, “Don’t they know the consequences of their antics could be a third world war?” Reuters should be above joining the fray.

  3. September 26, 2012 @ 9:03 pm H. Dickie

    That’s what happens when the news is owned by a Jewish family (Rothschild bought Reuters in the 1800s) and controls the dissemination of news worldwide through UPI and API. There is no objectivity, only an agenda. Israel needs to treat goyim like the humans they are, and learn to live in peace with their neighbors, not occupy them in violation of UN Resolution 245. A Jewish life is worth one goyim life, not 1,000, despite the self-proclaimed synonymity with Godhead. The apartheid and hypocrisy is disgusting, in fact, evil.

  4. September 26, 2012 @ 9:24 pm oops

    and you’re nearly as guilty………..

    “This is not meant as a defense of Ahmadinejad or the Iranian regime. Obviously, Ahmadinejad says plenty of incendiary and outrageous things all by himself. He doesn’t need to be misquoted to look like a lunatic.”

  5. September 26, 2012 @ 10:16 pm RT Carpenterr

    Arafat would not even show Israel on a map in Arab schools. Palestinian children saw only the map of Palestine (as it was before 1948). But it has been convenient for demagogues and their media lackeys to portray Iran as “wiping Israel off the map” by destruction rather than by erasing the map “error”. I (as a non-Farsi reader) understood it to mean map “correction” rather than warfare.

  6. September 26, 2012 @ 10:27 pm Houjan zandi

    Also another misquote, this, by aljazeera: he did not say ‘uncivilized Zionist’, he said, ‘uncultured’. There is a great difference.

  7. September 27, 2012 @ 2:43 am Hassan

    This article is the Fairess explanation, I ever read,regarding the Misquotes by the Iranian Leaders.
    The Reuters’ Agency certainly need spending some more time trying to understand the REAL meaning of what is being said,and reported FITHFULLY. As you rightly said such ” eye grabbing Headline/UNTRUTHFUL misquoting can only result in a catstrophic WAR in the MIDEAST, with the possible result of MILLIONS loosing their precious lives, all for what??
    Question is DOES REUTERS would like to see the region inflammed with the thousands of missiles that will be flying about,thus destroying
    important infrastructures, and the definite death of MILLIONS,+ later with the miseries of the left over populations to fend for themselves for the need of PRECIOUS foods /shelters.

  8. September 27, 2012 @ 3:42 am sherban

    If Mr.Ahmadinejad is a “lunatic”,how t5he author of article said but not quoting nothing “lunatic”from Mr.Ahmadinejad words,then Bibi,Olmert,Ehud Barak,Bush,Chenney,Liebermans,Clintons,McKay etc,etc,etc are martians.

  9. September 27, 2012 @ 4:55 am George Archers

    Re; Author’s luntic quote ” Ahmadinejad … incendiary and outrageous things all by himself. He doesn’t need to be misquoted to look like a lunatic.”
    Would the author like to luntic scale 1 to 10 these freaks of nature Sn/Jr.Bush,Nutanyahoo,Bill.Hillary Clinton, Reagan, Obama,Blair, Cameron,Sarkosie and Canada’s Harper. Sad part is Ahmadinejad comes in at 0 being a luntic
    Rueters/AP are both a very dangerous zionist motivated operations-syndicates which most news media buy their luntic reporting

  10. September 27, 2012 @ 6:29 am James

    It has been known for quiet a while now that Reuters is owned by the Rothschild.s…so who wants to install a Rothschild central bank in Iran just like in Libya by bombing the crap out of a country that refuses their central banks?

  11. September 27, 2012 @ 6:44 am carroll price

    Like every other world-wide news service, all “news” appearing in Reuters publications is monitored and edited by Zionist editors.

  12. September 27, 2012 @ 7:08 am karas

    If American people knows exactly whats going on then war & invasion would not happen.
    So media coming to prepare war in better package,promote with lies and if the lies is bigger & told many times ignorant public will believe.
    This very same public vote for George Bush twice.

  13. September 27, 2012 @ 8:25 am Henry

    Endless wars for Israel, yet another violation of our rights. The gov’t constantly violates our rights.

    They violate the 1st Amendment by caging protesters and banning books like “America Deceived II”.

    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by allowing TSA to grope you.

    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars.

    Impeach Obama, support Ron Paul.

    Last link of “America Deceived II” before it is completely banned:

  14. September 27, 2012 @ 8:34 am antonio moreno

    Why,Mr.Ahmadinejad “sadly” talks for Iran?. Why is he a lunatic?. Do you know better than the millions of iranians that put him in power?.
    I could say that he is leading a country that is successfully tacking the western powers colonialism.
    If you want to give us your opinion to help us understand these matters you have to restrain yourself on loosely using “common places” to describe leaders of important countries.

  15. September 27, 2012 @ 8:41 am John Allcock

    The people putting out this propaganda should be hauled into court and charged with inciting violence. It´s totally unacceptable. But what will happen? Nothing. Once again the zionist led press will simply sit back and laugh at the unsuspecting public. Really, it makes me want to puke. Come on America. Are we really going to allow these gangsters a free ride?

  16. September 27, 2012 @ 9:32 am Stevan

    The sad thing about this is that Obama continued the 2005 misquote just this past week. Someone tell me his writers are ignorant of the correction … I don’t believe that for a minute.

  17. September 27, 2012 @ 12:33 pm Jay Clark

    The American courts have “decided” that it is not required that the media actually tell the truth. So, not only can they say and do whatever they want they are aware that so much of the public is under their spell that they no longer even try to hide what they are really doing; it is in our face. Today the press is an arm of big government and the big money that controls it. They have been beating the war drums about the “dangers” from Iran for more than 4 years now and the American public thinks that Iran is just what these media apes say it is–a threat to the whole western world. It is nonsense, anti-history, and anti-principle but there it is. This is a perfect example of a propaganda machine masquerading as a free press. And they don’t do this for nothing, so get ready for another nightmare. JWC

  18. September 27, 2012 @ 2:44 pm It doesn't get much more blatant than this » Why Aren't You Outraged?

    […] Reuters and Ahmadinejad: Anatomy of a Dangerous Misquote : Newsvandal Joe,this is exactly how wars begin. You are not only a historian, but you are an incredibly aware reporter–one who understands there are huge consequences resulting from mis-quotes—particularly in an … […]

  19. September 27, 2012 @ 2:50 pm JDonald

    Those who own the press and wish to purvey their views will always be heard, whether it is the truth or not. I do not watch most weekend news panels since they always cater to a disproportionate number of Zionist commentators. Where are the Christians of America who want to treat Israelis and Palestinians with equal fairness? I don’t see them being invited to the panels. Of course now that we have a group of kooky Kristians in the country, their comments will certainly be trumpetted.

  20. September 27, 2012 @ 3:56 pm ouchosparks

    The first casualty of war,of course.

    What is lunatic is US policy, derived in part from our imperial Brit predecessors, assuming the US is a peaceful democracy that desires comity and trade with all nations. Since the US is none of those things, the policy has its own realpolitik logic. Needless loss of life, destruction of cultural and natural assets, mean nothing to US planners and policymakers.

  21. September 28, 2012 @ 2:16 am The 4th Media » MEDIA DISTORTION: Reuters and Ahmadinejad: Anatomy of a Dangerous ‘Misquote”

    […] article was originally posted at News Vandal – Tags: Iran Iranian Supreme Leader Israel Reuters […]

  22. September 30, 2012 @ 1:02 pm Top Headlines For 9/30/2012 « Alexander Higgins Top Alternative News Headlines

    […] Reuters and Ahmadinejad: Anatomy of a Dangerous Misquote […]

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.