"Iranian mullahs took American hostages and they held the American hostages for 444 days," Giuliani says in the spot. "And they released the American hostages in one hour, and that should tell us a lot about these Islamic terrorists that we're facing. The one hour in which they released them was the one hour in which Ronald Reagan was taking the Oath of Office as president of the United States."
Adds Giuliani: "The best way you deal with dictators, the best way you deal with tyrants and terrorists, you stand up to them. You don't back down."
The ad, which will run in New Hampshire and Boston, comes at something of an odd time in the campaign. Just two days ago, the National Intelligence Estimate report suggested that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, news that seems likely to make Iran policy a less significant factor in the presidential race.
And the implication that the mullahs released the hostages simply because Reagan was being inaugurated is misleading. As the New York Times' Bernard Gwertzman notes, "While it is certainly true that the hostages were not freed until a half hour after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981, their release was negotiated over a period of months first in Bonn, and then in Algiers by Warren Christopher."
Though there was speculation at the time that the mullahs held the prisoners in order to keep President Jimmy Carter from claiming credit for their release, Christopher attributed a delay in their release to difficulty rounding up the hostages – and suggested to Gwertzman, who was the Times' diplomatic correspondent at the time, that the timing of their release was coincidental.