ABC Ditches ‘Hardline’ Label After Confirmed Death of Iranian President

News & Politics

Over the weekend, the world was spared the rule of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (a.k.a. The Butcher of Tehran) after the helicopter he was riding in became a smear on a mountainside in northern Iran. But after accurately calling him a “hardliner” during Sunday’s World News Tonight coverage of the search for the crash site, ABC’s Good Morning America ditched the label after his death was confirmed Monday morning.

Foreign correspondent Lama Hasan delivered the report for World News Tonight. Nearing the end of the pre-recorded portion, Hasan noted: “Elected in 2021, President Raisi, a hardliner, is the second-most powerful figure in Iran. Seen as the top contender for replacing Ayatollah Khamenei.”

While she did accurately use a negative label to describe Raisi, Hasan omitted the darker nature of his presidency.

“Now, Raisi is an extremely divisive president. He was elected in the lowest turnout in the country’s history. He’s a conservative hardliner who’s overseen a violent crackdown on dissent,” correspondent Ian Lee said for CBS Weekend News.

Over on NBC Nightly News, correspondent Keir Simmons recalled that anchor Lester Holt pressed Raisi last year on the Americans held hostage by Iran. “[Iran’s] leadership has seen a brutal crackdown during mass protests after the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman,” he noted.

But even that simple mention of “hardliner” was apparently too much information to share for Good Morning America since correspondent Britt Clennett dropped its use during her Monday report. “President Raisi took office in 2021, the country’s second-most powerful figure was considered a top contender for one day replacing Ayatollah Khamenei,” she stated.

The only other political context she added around Raisi’s demise was that “The crash comes as turmoil grips the Middle East with the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group backed by Iran.”

Simmons kept the pressure on during NBC’s Today. “Ebrahim Raisi ran a government at launched missiles and drones at Israel just last month, and in 2022, brutally crushed protests over the death of a young woman Mahsa Amini,” he recounted.

Even CBS senior correspondent Holly Williams had criticism of The Butcher of Tehran. “President Raisi took office in 2021 after an election that excluded more moderate candidates,” she said. “In 2022, his government carried out a deadly crackdown on mass protests by women, many tearing off their compulsory Islamic head coverings as they demanded greater freedom.”

The transcript is below. Click “expand” to read:

ABC’s Good Morning America
May 20, 2024
7:06:28 a.m. Eastern

MICHAEL STRAHAN:  And we are going to turn now to the breaking news overnight. Iranian President Raisi was declared dead, as well as the foreign minister, after their helicopter crashed Sunday. Foreign correspondent Britt Clennett has the story for us, at this crucial time in the region. Good morning, Britt.

BRITT CLENNETT: Good morning, Michael. In a region where tensions are already running high, the news that Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash along with the foreign minister.

[Cuts to video]

This morning, Iranian officials confirming the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and several others after their helicopter crashed in Iran’s mountainous northwest, forced to make a hard landing in heavy fog.

Iranian Red Crescent rescue teams seen in new video from Iranian state media carrying bodies from the crash site. Drone footage released by the IRC shows the crash site on a steep wooded hillside. Iranian state TV broadcasting from what appears to be the charred wreckage. A massive search operation to locate the helicopter lasted more than 12 hours. Hampered by poor weather.

Raisi seen in the helicopter with other top officials coming from the border with Azerbaijan, where he just opened a new dam he just opened. Images show the helicopter leaving the site.

COL. STEPHEN GANYARD (UMSC, Ret.): We don’t know if it was some sort of a mechanical issue. But whenever we see mountains, bad weather, low visibility, the first cause that we look to is probably weather-induced mishaps.

CLENNETT: President Raisi took office in 2021, the country’s second-most powerful figure was considered a top contender for one-day replacing Ayatollah Khamenei. The crash comes as turmoil grips the Middle East with the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group backed by Iran.

[Cuts back to live]

And Iran’s supreme leader, he has expressed his condolences. He’s appointed the first vice president to serve as the country’s acting president until elections are held in the next 50 days. George?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Britt. Thanks.

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