PAAIA Seeks Clarification and Apology from Senator Graham on Offensive Iranian Comments

May 25, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Addressing the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Friday, May 22nd, Senator Lindsey Graham made highly offensive and incendiary comments by equating all Iranians to liars.  Explaining his leadership style and foreign policy stance on the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Presidential hopeful said, “Everything I know about the Iranians I learned in the pool room…I met a lot of liars and I know the Iranians are lying.”

“As a U.S. Senator and one who is seeking the highest office in the nation, Senator Graham should make clear that his remarks do not reflect his attitude toward the Iranian people,” said Dr. Leila Austin, Executive Director of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA).  “Such defamatory comments are disrespectful to Iranian Americans who are part of the fabric of this great nation and to all fair-minded and tolerant Americans who make up this country.” 

The United States is host to the largest expatriate community of Iranians in the world. Iranian Americans have contributed to the strength and diversity of America. They serve as government officials, in the military and law enforcement, working to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect all Americans.

While Senator Graham has every right to express his opinions about ongoing government-to-government negotiations, the suggestion that all Iranians are liars and broad brush prejudiced generalizations are demeaning and contrary to U.S. interests. The Iranian people are one of the most pro-American populations in the Middle East. Successive U.S. administrations have implemented policies to reach out directly to the Iranian people, aiming to hear their views and support their aspirations. The Senator’s remarks only serve to alienate those Iranians who want their government to engage the international community in a positive way.

As a champion of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Senator Graham has courageously stood up to detractors and many in his own party by stating that “we’re not going to run people down, we’re not going to scapegoat people, and we’re going to tell the bigots to shut up, and we’re going to get this right.”  Senator Graham should apologize to the Iranian American community and make it clear that his insensitive remarks were not meant to characterize an entire group of people.  

PAAIA will deliver a letter to Senator Graham’s office on Tuesday May 26, 2015 to express our concerns about the ramifications of his comments and to demand an apology.

Click here to view video of Senator Graham’s comments to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.  

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