Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)
The Chargé d’Affaires of Iran handed me this morning a translation7 and copy of a message which he had just received from his Government with regard to a recent publication in the New York Mirror referring to the Shah as formerly a stable hand; the Chargé admitted that the instruction came directly from the Shah himself. After reading it I expressed astonishment at its terms, saying that it was scarcely the kind of message which passed between two friendly governments; I did not wish, therefore, to discuss it, but would prefer to discuss the unfortunate publication of the Mirror. I thereupon laid the Shah’s message aside and took up the accompanying message7 left by the Chargé, which dealt only with the Mirror’s publication; I said that this Government naturally regretted any indignity against the head of a friendly state which had been committed in this country, either by the press or otherwise; I pointed out that, in this particular incident, the Mirror was a very unimportant publication, with a limited circulation and, in consequence, that this particular reference to the Shah would be noticed by very few people and even by them promptly forgotten; I explained the lack of control which this Government had over the American press, which I felt sure he fully understood; if, for example, the Department should communicate in writing with the Mirror or make any protest with regard to this particular incident, the Mirror would, in all probability publicize this fact and the objectionable reference to the Shah would consequently be broadcast throughout the country and the incident, which is now unnoticed, could very easily become known throughout the nation because of what might be interpreted by the American press as governmental restraint exercised upon an independent American journal. Furthermore, I added that I was doubtful whether our laws, which guaranteed [Page 351] freedom of the press, would operate in this particular case; I would, of course, be very glad to study our laws to see whether they might apply in such a way that this Government could properly make representations to the Mirror.
The Chargé d’Affaires expressed gratification at my reply, intimated, nevertheless, that he would like to see some action taken by the Department vis-à-vis the Mirror and expressed the hope that I could give him some answer to his instructions on Monday next.
(The Shah’s message, to which I did not refer except at the opening of the conversation, threatened to break off diplomatic relations with the United States unless the Department took certain specified steps vis-à-vis the Mirror’s statement.)