CBS News’s Major Garrett isn’t backing down in the face of criticism about how he handled his question yesterday in a news conference with President Obama. “Look, the position I’m in, I asked the question I asked and I can’t take it back. The president believed I was suggesting he was content with the Americans’ captivity. That wasn’t the basis of my question,” said Garrett this morning on “CBS This Morning” in response to a question from show co-host Charlie Rose.
Criticism of Garrett as a grandstanding and irresponsible journalist cropped up on TV and social media yesterday following a showdown in the White House’s East Room. After making some remarks about the Iranian nuclear deal, Obama invited questions from the assembled press corps. Garrett premised his question on the three Americans currently being detained in Iran — a group whose status wasn’t tied to the deal. “As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped-up charges that, according to your administration, one whereabouts unknown,” said Garrett. “Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”
President Obama was quite clearly offended by the question and took a swing at its premise: “I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am ‘content’ as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better,” Obama said, before rephrasing the question and answering it: “Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly, Iran realizes, ‘You know what? Maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.’”