October, 2015, Washington, D.C. – During last night’s Democratic Presidential debate in Las Vegas, Secretary Hillary Clinton made what many view as highly offensive and incendiary comments by equating Iranians as her enemy.
During the final comments of the debate, the moderator asked the Democratic candidates, “Which enemy are you most proud of?” The former U.S. secretary of state and ex-U.S. senator replied, “Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies… the Iranians… probably the Republicans.”
While her intentions may have been different, many ordinary Iranians have taken offence. “As the former Secretary of State and one who is seeking the highest office in the nation, Secretary Clinton should make clear that her remarks do not reflect her attitude toward the Iranian people,” said Dr. Leila Austin, Executive Director of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). “Such insensitive and incendiary remarks have a potential to damage long-term U.S. interests.”
Iran is quite unique in the Middle East, in that it maintains a sizable young, urban and highly educated population that holds favorable views towards America. Out of context rhetoric and careless remarks only serve to alienate Iranians who want their government to reform and engage the international community in a positive way and embolden those who seek the exact opposite.
Moreover, such comments are offensive to Americans of Iranian heritage, and have the potential to encourage stereotyping, ill will and hatred against a particular group of Americans. Whatever differences may exist with the government of Iran, presidential candidates must make a distinction between the government and the people of Iran.
Recognizing Iran and the recent nuclear agreement will be a central foreign policy issue of the 2016 presidential campaign, PAAIA organized an open letter to the 2016 Presidential Candidates in June of 2015. The letter was signed by thirty-seven prominent Iranian Americans, consisting of current and former government officials, foreign policy experts, scientists, business leaders, authors and media personalities. It urges the presidential candidates to refrain from making broad generalizations about the Iranian people on the campaign trail. Whatever differences may exist with the government of Iran, presidential candidates must make a distinction between the government and the people of Iran.
PAAIA will contact Secretary Clinton’s campaign to express our concerns about the ramifications of her comments.
Click here to view the video of Secretary Clinton’s remarks.