Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Sunday to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of U.S. hostages from Iran.
“40 years ago today, extremists in Iran released 52 American diplomats they held hostage for 444 days. Iran still holds innocent Americans hostage,” the secretary’s tweet said, along with a photo of the hostages getting off a plane.
The problem was, Pompeo got the anniversary wrong. The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, which was 38 years ago today, and also the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. The hostage situation at the U.S. embassy in Tehran indeed began in 1979, but that didn’t happen until November of that year.
Pompeo’s tweet remained up for several hours, but at just before 11 p.m. on Sunday, he appeared to delete it, and post a replacement tweet marking the date of the anniversary as 38 years ago, rather than 40, per the Washington Post.
The Iranian hostage crisis began in late 1979 when, following the Iranian revolution, a group of students took over the U.S. embassy, taking 52 American diplomats hostage. The hostage-taking was seen as a strike back against U.S. support of Iran’s former ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as well as an earlier U.S.-backed coup in the 1950s. Six other Americans managed to escape to the Canadian embassy and were later freed, in events later depicted in the Oscar-winning film, Argo.
President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to solve the crisis, including a failed rescue attempt, were seen as a major factor in Carter’s defeat in the 1980 presidential election. The hostages, as part of a diplomatic process, were freed during Reagan’s inaugural address.
U.S.-Iran relations have had numerous flashpoints in the years after, including the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987, and various threats by the U.S. against Iran’s nuclear efforts. President Barack Obama reached an agreement with Iran to limit the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, although Donald Trump withdrew from that deal last year.
Pompeo succeeded Rex Tillerson as secretary of state last year, and has enjoyed a much less turbulent relationship with the president as his predecessor did. However, there are reports that Pompeo may be looking at his next job. The secretary, a former Congressman from Kansas, is considering running for the U.S. Senate from that state, CNN reported. Pompeo would be running for the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts in the 2020 election. Running for the Senate would presumably require Pompeo to resign from the cabinet.