Communication Breakdown at National Press Club?
Billboard — November 24, 1951

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 25, 2012                     

Mohammad Mossadegh Here’s a fine example of the adage “don’t believe everything you read”.

Following Mossadegh’s November 14, 1951 presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC, he was pilloried mercilessly in the Billboard magazine column "Washington Once-Over". Complaining of the lack of an interpreter and audibility problems, it gave readers the distinct impression that a packed room of hapless newsmen were left with nothing to report.

That story doesn’t quite add up, however. Subsequent wire reports contained actual quotes from Mossadegh’s speech, and by the next morning, The Washington Post dedicated an entire editorial to its contents. The complete text of the speech ran in The New York Herald Tribune, and was also published by the U.S. government in a six page publication.

How so? According to sources like TIME magazine, the translation came after the speech. TIME and other sources also said the speech clocked in at about 40 minutes, a far more likely number than the 70 minutes claimed here. At any rate, these discrepancies illustrate once again the highly fraught nature of the news business — and second-hand information in general.

Washington Once-Over


Billboard magazine - November 24, 1951 WASHINGTON, Nov. 17— Most unusual walk-on performance of the week here was Premier Mohammed Mossadegh’s at a National Press Club luncheon. As TV cameras ground away, the Iranian Premier delivered a seventy-minute talk in his native tongue without an interpreter and without furnishing English version texts to newsmen. Exodus of listeners in the first 10 minutes reached near-riot proportions. Luckily for embarrassed State Department dignitaries present, the bulk of the newsmen remained transfixed. Table conversations in the smoke-filled room soon became the vogue as Mossadegh went on and on obliviously in a high nasal chant. TV sound engineers finally gave up trying to pick up the Premier’s incantation. When a National Press clubber hoisted a microphone closer to the wiry Premier’s lips, D.C. legalist Joe Borkin [well known lawyer and writer] whispered to a companion, “that’s so we can’t understand it more clearly.”

At First, the U.S. Was Optimistic About New Premier Mossadegh
Estimate of the Political Strength of the Mosadeq Government (U.S. Embassy in Iran, May 1951)


Related links:

IRAN: Empty Hands | TIME, November 26, 1951

Mossadegh Evokes Liberty in Philadelphia | Associated Press | October 22, 1951

Mossadegh A Hero? | The Evening News of the Tonawandas, November 26, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram