Former first lady Rosalynn Carter revealed that during the Iranian hostage crisis that doomed her husband’s presidency she begged Jimmy Carter to “do something,” but he rebuffed her by explaining that any U.S. action would lead to public hangings of the American hostages.
In the latest installment in C-SPAN's First Ladies series of interviews, Carter called the crisis “awful,” and something that dogged her when she campaigned for her husband's 1980 re-election effort, which he lost to Ronald Reagan.
She said that during her campaign stops, supporters would ask why President Carter wasn’t doing something to recover the hostages.
“I would go out and everybody would say, ‘Tell the president to do something and tell him to — he's got to do something,’” she said.
“I would come home and I would say, ‘Why don't you do something?’ And he said, ‘What do you want me to do? You want me to mine the harbors,’ which a lot of people were talking about. He said, ‘And then have them bring out one prisoner every day and hang him in public?’ Well, maybe that's not the best thing to do,” added the former first lady.
Eventually Carter did attempt a helicopter rescue effort that ended in disaster.
She recalled that the crisis was something her husband couldn’t avoid. “I wanted it over and, of course, he did too. Everybody did. Every one of the people in the country. Every night on — new TV programs started and nobody got over it at all. I mean, could get over it or just think about it because it was there every day, every night. It was awful,” she said.Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.