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NBC's Curry to Ahmadinejad: 'Why Do You Work So Hard?'

Monday's NBC Today featured co-host Ann Curry live in Tehran doing a fawning "day in the life" profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At one point, Curry noted the dictator's "grueling schedule" and wondered: "What is your primary motivation, as president? Why do you work so hard?" [Audio available here]

From beginning to end, Curry's report sounded more like propaganda on Iranian state television rather than a legitimate news story. She sympathetically declared: "A hard-driving schedule is the norm his aides say, claiming he sleeps just three hours a night and that his days often stretch to 2:00 a.m. They say even Iran's supreme leader has advised him to sleep more."



The segment began with her describing how "After his 5 a.m. prayers," Ahmadinejad can be seen "Jogging with his security team, at times seemingly 'Rocky' style, before sunrise." And how later, "He reaches his spacious but simple office before 7 a.m., there he works without shoes, but at 54, with reading glasses. First up, scanning local newspapers and briefs, including what western media are reporting."

Curry touted: "Ahmadinejad has visited each province at least three times and every city in each province....we land at remote Korizan Province, near the border of Turkmenistan. In this poor border town he first stops at a bazaar, meeting local artisans. Speaking to some, even in everyday English."

She later observed the Iranian President "showing a compassionate side," meeting with an elderly man who lost three sons in the Iran-Iraq war, and remarked: "perhaps trying to remake his image at home and abroad."

Curry continued to lob softballs at the authoritarian leader: "What is the future you wish for Iran?" Giving Ahmadinejad the opportunity to proclaim: "I want the same future as I want for every nation in the world, peace, friendship, happiness and unity."

Continuing to push the image of a president working hard for his people, Curry concluded the report: "At 7:30, back at the presidential compound for hours for more meetings. He stops to pray for the fifth time on this day. And then in darkness he returns to work, expected to go until midnight when night becomes day again."

After the taped portion of the segment, Curry managed to mention: "But in a sign that his controversial rhetoric has not changed, on Sunday he reiterated his position that 9/11 was, quote, 'A complicated plan devised as a pretext for the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.'"

Curry gushing over Ahmadinejad is reminiscent of a profile of the Iranian president done in 2007 by CBS's Scott Pelley, who appeared on the Early Show to tell viewers: "...he's described in the West as a madman, crazy, that's not the case. I found him to be as many politicians are, very engaging, very friendly, he's clearly not mad, he's sane. In fact, he's very wily I would tell you."

Here is a full transcript of Curry's September 12 report:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Ann is on assignment this morning in Iran, where she was given unprecedented access to Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

MATT LAUER: That's right. She spent an entire day with that controversial leader gaining some insight on how he sees the world and Iran's place in it. Ann's going to share it all with us, coming up live straight ahead.

7:08AM ET SEGMENT:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: From one closely watched world leader to one of the most controversial. Ann is in Tehran, Iran this morning, where she was given exclusive access to the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ann, good morning to you.

ANN CURRY: Good morning to you, Savannah. That's right. We were granted the first ever behind-the-scenes access to the daily schedule of Iran's President Ahmadinejad. Drawing back a curtain on one of the world's most controversial and secretive leaders.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Ann Curry: A Day In the Life of Iran's President]

CURRY: After his 5 a.m. prayers, President Ahmadinejad – Good morning, Mr. President.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: Good morning.

CURRY: Walks from his private residence in the presidential compound to his daily workout. Jogging with his security team, at times seemingly 'Rocky' style, before sunrise. Then to the gym, often lifting weights or cycling. Concerned about staying healthy, President Ahmadinejad exercises more than 30 minutes every morning.

He reaches his spacious but simple office before 7 a.m., there he works without shoes, but at 54, with reading glasses. First up, scanning local newspapers and briefs, including what western media are reporting. By 8:00 he's on his way. On this day to a gathering of prominent Shia Muslim leaders. He's called to promote Iran as a Shia superstate.

By 9:40 he's boarding a government 707, more than 50 years old. The flying relic is likely a result of western sanctions long imposed against Iran. Even during the flight, he's meeting with ministers. A hard-driving schedule is the norm his aides say, claiming he sleeps just three hours a night and that his days often stretch to 2:00 a.m. They say even Iran's supreme leader has advised him to sleep more.

In his six years as president, Ahmadinejad has visited each province at least three times and every city in each province. At 11:45, after an hour flight, we land at remote Korizan Province, near the border of Turkmenistan. In this poor border town he first stops at a bazaar, meeting local artisans. Speaking to some, even in everyday English. Mr. President, why have you made this point to come to one of the poorest parts of Iran to highlight the art and the crafts?

AHMADINEJAD [THROUGH TRANSLATOR]: I want to show that all we have some common humanity. Human values. Because the main point is to integrate all the nations together.

CURRY: All the nations of the world? Including the United States?

AHMADINEJAD: Everywhere wherever there is a human.

CURRY: Keeping obviously a grueling schedule, what is your primary motivation, as president? Why do you work so hard?

AHMADINEJAD: It's only a half day, we barely started working.

CURRY: Mindful that this is one of the poorest parts of his country, at 12:50 he's on the move again, to review government subsidized housing. Iran's poor masses are his base. 26,000 families here alone have gotten homes. These women agree the homes are far better than the ones they used to live in. But as the President attempts to leave, he is surrounded. Swarmed by people pleading for food and other necessities. Now dramatically more expensive because of rising inflation.

Later in the afternoon, this man tells the President he lost three sons in Iran's war with Iraq and now his wife is sick. The President showing a compassionate side, perhaps trying to remake his image at home and abroad. At 6:35 he lands back in Tehran. What is the future you wish for Iran? Why?

AHMADINEJAD: I want the same future as I want for every nation in the world, peace, friendship, happiness and unity.

CURRY: At 7:30, back at the presidential compound for hours for more meetings. He stops to pray for the fifth time on this day. And then in darkness he returns to work, expected to go until midnight when night becomes day again.

President Ahmadinejad is about to appear once again on the world stage when he speaks before the United Nations General Assembly. But in a sign that his controversial rhetoric has not changed, on Sunday he reiterated his position that 9/11 was, quote, 'A complicated plan devised as a pretext for the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.'

There is a lot to ask him about, including new concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, and we are now working to bring you that interview tomorrow morning on Today. Now back to you, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Ann, we will be waiting for it. Thank you so much.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.