On Monday's NBC Today, correspondent Ann Curry reported from Tehran on the installation of new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, touting how the cleric "promises to change virtually everything Mahmoud Ahmandinejad has done." Moments later, she announced: "...today Iran has a moderate president promising sweeping change." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In a similar report for Sunday's Nightly News, Curry declared that the transfer of power "appears full of goodwill" while teeing up Rouhani addressing the Iranian parliament. Wrapping up the segment, she proclaimed: "After his remarks, President Rouhani immediately named his entire cabinet, most fellow moderates. He was clearly signaling the direction he wants Iran to go and how fast."
As she helped foster Rouhani's "moderate" image, Curry freely acknowledged the stagecraft used to manipulate the press:
Perhaps as significant as the new president's message is today's orchestration of the international press. This inauguration has turned into a world press event and really only for one reason – the world is worried Iran could soon have the bomb. And Iran gave the media a show. Its modern parliament a setting for a television spectacular.
While Curry cheered the post-Ahmadinejad era in Iran, she seemed to forget the fawning interview she conducted with the former Iranian dictator in 2011. At that time, she sympathized with Ahmadinejad's "grueling schedule" and asked him: "Why do you work so hard?"
Rouhani's supposed moderation has already been called into question. On Friday he launched into an anti-Israel rant: "The Zionist regime is a wound inflicted for years on the body of the Muslim world that must be cleansed."
In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com the same day, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center further detailed Rouhani's record as a hardliner.
Here is a full transcript of Curry's August 5 report on Today:
NATALIE MORALES: Well, the man who was the face of Iran and all its hostility toward the United States, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was officially replaced Sunday by a new president
who was talking about more dialogue with west. NBC's Ann Curry is in Iran with more on the shift in power.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Shift in Power; Hassan Rouhani Takes Over as President of Iran]
ANN CURRY: Both men smile for the cameras, though President Rouhani promises to change virtually everything Mahmoud Ahmandinejad has done. In the markets, it's clear much is expected of him. The pressure of sanctions has the economy in shambles. Prices, even for food, out of control. That and deep unemployment is devastating for the young, in a country where nearly 70% are under 30. Many, like Miriam, are disillusioned. How much do you hope for change for Iran with the new president in Rouhani?
CURRY: You have no hope?
MIRIAM: No hope.
CUIRRY: Still, they voted. And because of them, today Iran has a moderate president promising sweeping change.
AZEETA: Right now, my people, I can see happiness.
CURRY: Azeeta is a pharmacist.
AZEETA: It is better we compromise between Iran and the U.S. It is better that we compromise to have a better life than having nuclear power.
CURRY: Ali, a student, supports Rouhani's call to end censorship of the internet, saying, "We built the Islamic republic to get out of the dictatorship. This country should be different from North Korea. We are meant to have freedom." Would you like to see President Rouhani and President Obama meet?
AZEETA: It is really good idea, yeah. Connection between U.S. is so natural.
CURRY: But as high as the hopes are at this moment in this conservative country, the odds against real change are even higher. Ann Curry, NBC News, Tehran.