During a press conference on Wednesday, CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett asked President Obama why he was “content” celebrating the current deal with Iran when the release of four American hostages was not included in the provisions.
“As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran – three held on trumped up charges according to your administration, one, whereabouts unknown,” Garrett said. “Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all of the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for, in relation to these four Americans?”
Obama responded, saying that he had to give Garrett credit for the way he crafted his questions.
“The notion that I am content, as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails – Major, that’s nonsense,” Obama said. “And you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.”
The deal, which was announced on Tuesday by Iran, the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, will limit Tehran’s nuclear ability, in exchange for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Obama said that he believes the deal is “our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon,” and he welcomes a “robust debate” with the “politically motivated opposition” in Congress.
“The bottom line is this—this nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the United States and our allies,” Obama said. “It prevents the most serious threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That’s why this deal makes our country safer and secure.”
Following the news conference, Garrett told CBS anchor Contessa Brewer that politicians such as President Obama have a habit of “creating straw men,” or “taking something that they feel rhetorically works to their advantage and using it.”
“My question did not suggest he was content with the captivity of those four Americans,” Garrett said. “My question was about the contentment or the satisfaction or the realization that it was necessary within the context of this deal to leave them unaccounted for was the essence of the question.”
Garrett acknowledged that his question struck a nerve with the President, and said that was his intention.
“The families of those four Americans have heard the President say he’s not content, and he will work overtime to win their eventual release,” Garrett said. “It does not appear to me to be a sideline issue in the whole context of the conversation about this Iran nuclear deal. Was it provocative? Yes. Was it intended to be as such? Absolutely.”