Arms for Hostages

Despite his firm stand against dealing with terrorists, in November 1986 Reagan admitted that arms had been shipped to Iran but denied that the arms were a trade for hostages.


Narrator: Days later Reagan admitted arms had been shipped to Iran to forge a better relationship but denied they were arms for hostages.

Reagan (archival): In spite of the wildly speculative and false stories of arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments, we did not, repeat, did not, trade weapons or anything else for hostages. Nor will we.

Lou Cannon, Biographer: Reagan had absolutely convinced himself, as much as he had convinced himself in SDI, once he believed in it, that we had this wonderful system in place, he had convinced himself that he was not dealing with the kidnappers. He had promised that he would never deal with the people who had taken the Americans hostage. He had convinced himself that he was dealing with these Iranian moderates, and that he was dealing with the middlemen, he was dealing with the people who were dealing with the kidnappers.

Christopher Matthews, Aide to House Speaker O'Neill: The American middle had been confounded by this patriotic President who had won on standing tall, who was found to be paying tribute to the enemy in a kind of pusillanimous way.

Narrator: Reagan had questions to answer.

Reagan (archival): Good evening.

Helen Thomas (archival): Mr. President, how would you assess the credibility of your own administration in light of the prolonged deception of Congress and the public in terms of your secret dealings with Iran, the disinformation.

Bill Plante (archival): The record shows that every time an American hostage was released there had been a major shipment of arms just before that. Are we all to believe that is just a coincidence?

Jerrimiah O'Leary (archival): What would be wrong with saying a mistake was made on a very high risk gamble so that you can get on with the next two years?

Reagan (archival): Because I don't think a mistake was made.

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  • NEH