In their coverage of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speech on Saturday during which he made his first public comments on the agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, major media outlets either intentionally or inadvertently failed to mention that the top Iranian figure was holding a rifle at the podium.
In video of the speech posted by Iran’s PressTV, the firearm was visible in his left hand at 8:51, 12:05 and 18:20. Toward the end of the speech, the gun was leaned against the podium – as seen at 26:50 and 27:40.
To drive home the point, the supreme leader’s official website posted a close up photo captured from beside the podium of the gun which even showed the magazine jutting out.
Some journalists made efforts to include expert opinion in their articles, offering analysis of Khamenei’s words ("to pacify" or "quiet" hardliners); others pointed out that it was "carried live by state television" and noted that the speech was given after holiday prayers marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, offering atmospheric color.
But the most potent sign of all reflecting his message - the gun balanced under his left hand holding his speech notes - was left unmentioned.
It’s unlikely that if the speech had been given by an American or any Western politician that this scene setting detail would have been overlooked, especially given the hotly debated issue of guns.
The AP’s website had this photo of Khamenei holding the gun, but it was not mentioned in the copy in the accompanying article:
This video report from AFP-TV also did not include even one shot of Khamenei holding the gun, instead showing his face close up.
During his speech, Khamenei said Iranian policy toward the “arrogant U.S. government” would not change as a result of the nuclear agreement.
"Our policy toward the arrogant U.S. government won't change at all," Khamenei said. "We have no negotiations with America about various global and regional issues. We have no negotiations on bilateral issues."
He also praised Iranian demonstrators who a week before chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to the U.S.” during protests marking the pro-Palestinian Al Quds Day commemoration.
The ayatollah said that the slogans “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” would continue to be heard in Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday pointed to Khamenei’s speech as offering proof that Iran would not change as a result of the nuclear agreement.
“If someone thought that the extraordinary concessions to Iran would lead to a change in its policy, they received an unequivocal answer over the weekend in Iranian ruler Khamenei’s aggressive and contrary speech,” Netanyahu said.