Americans were held hostage at the US Embassy in Iran after Carter welcomed the Shah into the United States for medical treatment in 1979. "It was a defining event," says Pollster Pat Caddell. "This is the entire United States government captured, and held illegally under international law and being taunted everyday."
Narrator: On November 4, 1979, it would all seem trivial. A few days earlier, 3,500 Iranian students had marched toward the American Embassy in Tehran, threatening to overtake it.
The anti-Shah movement which had began in early 1978 had grown into a full-fledged Islamic Revolution. The Shah was driven into exile, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, became the leader of a new and mysterious, Islamic Republic.
The Shah arrived in the United States on October 22. Two weeks later, Iranian students seized the American Embassy. Fifty-three Americans were to be held hostage until the United States returned the Shah to Iran.
Everyone awaited word from Khomeini. Seeing an opportunity to consolidate his revolution, the Ayatollah gave his blessing, calling the U.S. Embassy "a den of spies."
Jimmy Carter (archival): The United States of America will not yield to international terrorism or to blackmail.
Pat Caddell, Pollster: It was a defining event. This is the entire United States government captured, and held illegally under international law and being taunted everyday.
Roger Wilkins, Journalist: The whole world saw these images of these people burning American flags, stomping on images of Carter and the most rancid sort of disrespect and hatred of the United States, on television, around the world, all the time.
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