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A Rose By Any Other Name Still Smells Like OIL

June 8, 2010

NBC Nightly News

“Brian Williams: a Cronkite for the 21st century.” Market Watch, June 2, 2010

Dear Mr. Williams,

On May 25, 2010 NBC Nightly News was covering the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You interviewed the former president of Shell Oil, John Heifmeiste “whose new book ‘Why We Hate Oil Companies’ will be published” soon.  In that interview you referred to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf.

Persian Gulf is the historically accepted name for the Persian Gulf, not Arabian Gulf.

Apparently, neither you nor Mr. Heifmeiste are aware that all major international organizations, including the UN and the World Atlas, recognize Persian Gulf as the official and legitimate name for the body of water you both referred to during your May 25th “Mexican Gulf” oil spill discussion.

You are a veteran anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News.  Time Magazine, no less, has named you one of the 100 Most Influential People in The World. Therefore, it is quite awkward when someone in your position misstates the facts, particularly significant, even sensitive, historical ones.  That tends to put questions in our minds as to just how factual and impartial your reporting is. Was your mis-identifying the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf due to a lack of historical knowledge, or some kind of expediency to the oil-rich Arab states in the region?

I have been a long time viewer of NBC Nightly News, and yes, I am Iranian American.  I have lived in America for over forty years, and am a US citizen.  Having heretofore generally trusted your impartiality and honesty, I was disappointed in what looked to me like an intentional political framing of that reporting.  Such regard I could never have for those who anchor the evening news at, say, FOX “news.”  But now, I’m not so sure.

The Iranian-American community and all people of Persian heritage are offended by what we see as disrespect for the internationally recognized name, Persian Gulf.  We feel an apology is in order both from you and Mr. Heifmeiste.  Moreover, we believe an air time mea culpa would be appropriate—as news programs do whenever a mistake like this happens.

Persians universally take a legitimate and honest pride that history has acknowledged the significance of the Persian contribution to it by so naming the gulf, Persian Gulf.  Does NBC really need to stoop to politicizing Geography?


Fara Mansoor

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