Edgar Ansel Mowrer, Unprincipled Journalist
Slandered Mossadegh With Impunity For Over a Decade
Edgar Ansel Mowrer (1892-1977) was a foreign correspondent, author, lecturer and columnist who in 1933 won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, completed the anti-Nazi book Germany Puts the Clock Back, and was elected president of the Foreign Press Association.
Traveling the world and encountering leaders from Benito Mussolini to General Douglas Macarthur, Mowrer was particularly known for his writings on Italy, France, China, Germany and America. “[Mowrer] is often referred to as the most distinguished of all reporters on world affairs”, wrote The Salt Lake Tribune in 1952, and “he has many close friendships with high ranking U.N. and government leaders in this country and abroad”. According to a 1962 Current Biography yearbook, Mowrer was widely regarded as “the dean of American foreign correspondents.”
Yet Mowrer’s integrity as a journalist needs a serious review, judging from his astonishingly libelous attacks on the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, during and after the Iranian oil dispute. In fact, Mowrer so burned with contempt for the man, he maintained his slander campaign as long as nine years after his overthrow (at least eleven years total).
July 16, 1951
Mowrer was critical of Mossadegh from the beginning of his appearance on the international scene. When it was announced that U.S. Ambassador W. Averell Harriman would travel to Iran as a mediator, Mowrer wrote:
Mowrer then explained why he opposed nationalization in principle—not only in Iran, but any country in the region...
September 28, 1951
The most obvious example of Mowrer’s bias may be the piece alternatively titled in newspapers "Iran Premier Appears Mentally Ill", "Mossadegh Throws Away Sympathy of Americans" and "Scared or Crazy, Mossadegh a Menace to Iran" (shown in all its puerile glory below).
The column made four outrageous charges, all milled from gossip and hearsay, deriving from alleged “foreigners in Tehran”. Suggesting that Mossadegh, a “pixilated exhibitionist”, was mentally unbalanced, Mowrer told readers that he faked needing crutches for show (what crutches?), had two doctors on hand monitoring his blood pressure during every minute of his meetings with diplomats, laughed like a loon in discussions with Ambassador Harriman, and hurled a hysterical, ultra-paranoid, anti-British tirade at British envoy Richard Stokes. Not even Stokes himself would have (or ever did) make such a claim.
October 26, 1951
Mowrer kept it wacky in a subsequent column:
February 22, 1952
An alarmed Mowrer warned that Communists were “cooperating with tyrannical and reactionary regimes” all across the world:
June 16, 1952
In June 1952, Mowrer commenced a second syndicated column, "What’s Your Question on World Affairs?", exclusively replying to reader questions. In one of the first columns, Mowrer answered a doctor’s query, “What makes Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh weep and faint in public?”:
August 5, 1952
Shortly after his return as premier with the backing of Ayatollah Kashani, Mowrer called it a “successful coup d’etat” and described Mossadegh as:
Yet Mowrer concluded on a hopeful note:
August 17, 1952
The continued efforts of U.S. mediation in the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute confounded Mowrer. “It disturbs me”, he vented.
December 16, 1952
The protracted oil dispute remained “dark and stormy”, commented Mowrer near the end of 1952:
July 29, 1953
In a column urging the U.S. to arm Syrian dictator Adib Shishakly, but tread carefully, Mowrer lumped in Iran as an “Arab” country:
August 26, 1953
Mowrer was predictably thrilled by Mossadegh’s demise after the coup, and, viewing it as an outcome largely enabled by tough U.S. policy toward non-aligned countries, strongly urged it usher in a trend:
Above all, Mowrer believed the coup demonstrated that it was in America’s best interest to project toughness and be feared, particularly citing Arab, North African and Asian nations:
October 1, 1953
Comparing the foreign policy methods of Eisenhower-Dulles with Truman-Acheson, Mowrer observed:
November 18, 1953
After Mossadegh was overthrown, Mowrer was elated, and threw his full support behind the coup regime. He accused the “weeping fanatic” of treason, and praised the royalist government for doing themselves, the United States and the world a great favor in ousting the “Mossadegh-Communist faction”—because after all,
March 10, 1954
At a ski resort near Tehran in February 1954, Mowrer conducted a 75 minute interview with the Shah on the condition that he not be quoted directly. Mowrer had been invited by court minister Hossein Ala, whom he called “my friend”.
In addition to the Shah, Mowrer got interviews with new Premier Fazlollah Zahedi, who spoke “scornfully” of Mossadegh, and Foreign Minister Abdollah Entezam, “a professional looking man who understands the world.” Mowrer also admired Zahedi’s physical presence:
October 27, 1954
Mowrer used Iran and Yugoslavia to illustrate his foreign aid recommendations to the U.S. Congress:
October 21, 1955
Recalling how Iran had been “ravaged by the follies of the weeping Mossadegh”, Mowrer verbally toasted the Shah and Sec. John Foster Dulles after Iran agreed to join the Northern Tier Alliance (a military pact).
August 1, 1956
Mowrer’s venomous depiction of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, “the Egyptian pest”, and condemnation of his seizure of the Suez Canal sounded familiar...
Then he wrote more threateningly:
August 22, 1958
An August 18th speech by John Foster Dulles advocating that America base its conduct “on principles of law and justice” incensed Mowrer, who called it “a form of hypocrisy” and “...one of the most dangerous and unclear policies ever accepted by a leading government. For it assumes...that principles of justice are the same to all countries.” Then Mowrer spilled the beans about a couple of recent illegal U.S. maneuvers:
In his 1961 book An End to Make-Believe, Mowrer renewed his smear tactics against the deposed Prime Minister. Though he had previously portrayed him as allergic to Communism, and stated that Moscow had been “savagely attacking Mossadegh”, this time the ex-Premier was repeatedly labeled “pro-Communist”:
Later in the book, Mowrer redoubled his attack:
Wasting no opportunity, Mowrer even used the index section to brand his victim: “Mossadegh, Mohamad, pro-Communist Iranian Minister”.
August 30, 1962
For the sake of stability, Mowrer proffered, dictatorships can often be preferable to democratic regimes. And after years of wearing out the “weeping Mossadegh” line, Mowrer got really creative with the “weeping, pro-communist” combo-insult:
Given Edgar Ansel Mowrer’s relentness hatred of Dr. Mossadegh, willingness to fabricate and/or pass on unsubstantiated stories, and his own past experience as reporter-spy, it’s entirely plausible that he was, like many journalist colleagues of his generation, a compensated government propagandist.
During World War II, in order to track Japanese movements, Mowrer was dispatched to Asia by Office of Strategic Services (OSS) head William Donovan as a secret agent using his Chicago Daily News correspondent role as a cover. The OSS, of course, soon evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency, the department largely responsible for crushing Mossadegh in 1953.
Regardless of the motivation, Mowrer’s shameless anti-Mossadegh rants are a good record of the high degree of unprofessionalism tolerated for far too long in American journalism.
Edgar Ansel Mowrer Columns:
Harriman Must Show Great Diplomatic Ability — July 16, 1951
Iran Coup Vindicates Tough U.S. Policy — August 26, 1953
Black Journalist P. L. Prattis Laments Fall of Mossadegh, “Savior” of Iranians — Sept. 1953
Columnist Marquis Childs on Mossadegh, the Shah and Iranian Revolution — 1951-1979
Mossadegh Is First Problem U.N. Must Solve In Oil Crisis — Peter Edson, October 15, 1951
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”