Sawyer Defends Middle East Trip: 'Even Your Adversaries Have Their Own Point of View'

On the Thursday edition of "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer responded to critics of her recent visits to Syria and Iran. After reading some viewer e-mails about the interviews she conducted with leaders of those countries, including a question on why ABC allowed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so much time to spew his propaganda, Sawyer informed her audience, "People all over the world, whatever their governments are doing, people all over the world really do have a yearning to live at peace on this planet, I believe."

Perhaps the GMA host was taking the words of the Iranian President to heart. During one interview, he told her that mass rallies containing "death to America" chants shouldn’t be taken personally by U.S. citizens.

Earlier in the segment, which aired at 7:48am on February 15, Sawyer defended the necessity of such trips by citing the need for greater understanding:

Robin Roberts: "We have a lot to chat about, because Diane is back from one of her trips again. She was in Iran, as you know, and had a chance to talk with the President, Ahmadinejad. And it's wonderful when the viewers respond, Diane, and their questions often times are better than our questions that we have for you. And overwhelmingly positive, what people were asking and wanting to know. But there also people that thought-- And I'll get to the question, let me let her ask the question: 'Why are you giving the Iranian president air time to vent his propaganda?' Anita wanted to know this."

Diane Sawyer: "Right. It's a question that comes in a lot. 'Why do you let,’ some people just said 'our enemies, do this?' And I want to show you how he challenged me about why I was there as a journalist or politician again." [Clip of Sawyer’s interview begins]

Ahmadinejad: "But you have come here in disguise of a politician, I guess."

Sawyer: "No. I am a journalist. Solely a journalist. Excuse me.' [End clip] I had trouble with my scarf there. You now, again, I understand that it is confusing sometimes, what we do, and why we're there. But even, even your adversaries have their own point of view, and how can you tackle this part of the world if you don't understand why they say they are doing what they are doing? Even your enemies can teach you something about why they are doing what they are doing. And we were trying to bring back real information in this critical time for these people that live in that part of the world. It is so complicated. What Iran is doing, basically, is trying to have a relationship with all sides. Got a 700-mile border with Iraq and there is no question, whether you believe a word this man says or not, that you've got to listen carefully in this part of the world."

Sawyer statement could be interpreted to mean that America should know and understand its enemy. (Although the GMA anchor seemed to be advocating for a "Can’t-we-all-just-get-along?" style dialogue.) The only problem is, the morning anchor’s interviews were mostly syrupy and superficial. She asked Ahmadinejad, a leader who denies the Holocaust occurred and had called for the destruction of Israel, how often he cries.

Ms. Sawyer also wondered whether Syrian President Bashar Assad, a man who dramatically restricts civil liberties, plays video games or uses an iPod. On another occasion, she portayed Syria as pro-family and a welfare paradise. Is this the definition of "bringing back real information?"

A few minutes later, at 7:51, co-host Chris Cuomo read another question. This one wondered what the Iranian people asked Sawyer:

Chris Cuomo: "Another question that we heard very commonly asked is what did the Iranian people ask of you when you were there?"

Roberts: "That's a good question."

Sawyer: "Well, that's part of it, you know, so many of them said why does your country hate us? Why do you hate us? And why aren't you giving us nuclear energy when so many other countries of the world have nuclear energy? So they see it, of course, from their perspective. And then, so many of them said, 'Do you like us?'"

Roberts: "They asked you that?"

Sawyer: "They did. Yeah. Are-- Do you feel welcome here? Do you like us? So there is this great yearning on the part of so many of the people there to bridge this gap. People all over the world, whatever their governments are doing, people all over the world really do have a yearning to live at peace on this planet, I believe."

The one point that she apparently didn't consider is that in the "people" in Syria and Iran have vast restrictions on their freedoms. At no time did the ABC anchor seem to wonder if these citizens were coerced or self censoring themselves. But then, this is the same woman who traveled to North Korea and marveled unquestioningly at young students who called themselves "the happiest children in the world."

Iraq Middle East Iran Israel/Palestine ABC Good Morning America
Scott Whitlock's picture