The New York Times was criticized Monday for tweeting that the Iranian government cracked down on protesters "after demonstrators across the country ignored calls for calm."

The lede of the accompanying news story, which reported that at least 12 people have been killed in "clashes" with Iranian government forces, also described the crackdown as taking place after "demonstrators across the country ignored calls for calm by President Hassan Rouhani."

Detractors said the newspaper was downplaying the Iranian regime's role in the violence and at least giving the appearance of blaming the protesters. Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama and professor of political science as Stanford, argued the headline should have blamed "Iran's brutal dictatorship" for killing and arresting "brave Iranian citizens demanding greater freedoms."

Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College and a commentator, described the New Year's Day post as "an early nominee for worst headline of the year."

Many of the replies to the Times' tweet were also negative, with Twitter users calling it "indefensible" and asking if they had been tricked by a parody account.

Iran is in the midst of the most significant citizen uprising against the government since 2009. The Times is among the few Western publications with a regular correspondent in Tehran.

President Trump tweeted in support of "peaceful demonstrators" while denouncing the regime as a human rights abuser and a state sponsor of terrorism. After initially certifying Iranian compliance the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, he declined to do so again in October, though he stopped short of trying to terminate the pact.