Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman

The Obama Administration is adding insult to injury.  After President Obama attacked a reporter questioning his decision to make a deal with Iran leaving four American hostages behind as “nonsense,” Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman continued this insolent tone yesterday.

A reporter in yesterday’s State Department briefing asked Undersecretary Sherman – who has been the Administration’s point person on the entire negotiation process – a simple question, “Did the hostages ever come up [during nuclear talks] or were they only a sideline issue?”

Instead of merely addressing the question, Undersecretary Sherman attacked the reporter’s characterization of the wrongfully imprisoned Americans as “hostages.”  As the Washington Free Beacon reports:

“Well the Americans, we probably legally would not call them hostages,” Sherman instructed the reporters. She suggested the term “detainees” instead, and assured the press that “our focus of attention has been and always will be” bringing home the four American hostages.

Not hostages?  That’s absurd.

This tactic of belittling reporters in order to avoid critical questions when Americans lives are on the line should be insulting to every American.

Not only is it insensitive to the families of those left behind and insulting to the American conscience, it is just flat wrong.

A “hostage” is defined by Blacks Law Dictionary as “An innocent person held captive by another who threatens to kill or harm that person if one or more demands are not met.”

For American Pastor Saeed Abedini – a U.S. citizen – this is clearly the case.

He is innocent; his only “crime” is his Christian faith, something that is even protected under Iranian law.  He has been wrongfully imprisoned, held captive by the Iranian regime, for nearly three years.  And as we have reported, many times he has suffered beatings, psychological abuse, and torment at the hands of his captors because of his faith.  He has on numerous occasions been told by his Iranian captors that he would be let go if he rejects his Christian faith and becomes Muslim.

Pastor Saeed is a hostage.  To deny this fact is absurd.

Blacks Law Dictionary also provides a second definition of “hostage”: “Int’l law. A person who is given or taken into an enemy’s custody, in time of war, with his or her freedom or life to stand a security for the performance of some agreement made to the enemy by the belligerent power giving the hostage.”

As the Washington Free Beacon aptly notes:

The word “hostage” carries historical baggage in the context of relations between Iran and the United States because of the 52 American citizens who were held hostage by the fledgling Islamic republic between 1979 and 1981. The 444 day hostage crisis was a particularly poignant example of the Iranian regime’s anti-Americanism, which persists to this day.

In this context, as the Obama Administration “negotiates” with and makes a “deal” with Iran, while at the same time discussing the wrongful imprisonment of four U.S. citizens on the “sidelines” of those negotiations, there is definitely a case to be made that these four Americans are legally hostages. 

But regardless, is this the time for the Administration to lecture reporters about the use of the word “hostage” to describe these innocent Americans that it has just left behind in the Islamic Republic of Iran?

No, it is merely another example of the Administration’s moral cowardice.

The American people see through the misdirection and insolent tone of the Obama Administration.  We will not abandon our fellow Americans.

Hundreds of thousands are signing the ACLJ’s petition to Congress, demanding the House and Senate reject the deal and bring our Americans home.

You can add your name to our petition here.

Matthew Clark is Senior Counsel for Digital Advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and four children in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.