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Merrimack Valley

February 26, 2013

Ex-Canada ambassador: Affleck 'thanks' better late than never

TORONTO (AP) — The former Canadian ambassador to Iran who protected Americans at great personal risk during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis said Monday it was good to hear Ben Affleck thank Canada after Affleck’s film “Argo” won the Oscar for best picture.

“Argo” came under criticism from some Canadians, including former ambassador Ken Taylor, who said he felt slighted by the movie because it makes Canada look like a meek observer to CIA heroics. Taylor says it minimizes Canada’s role in the Americans’ rescue.

Taylor criticized Affleck on Friday and said he hoped Affleck would acknowledge Canada’s role. Affleck briefly thanked Canada in his acceptance speech Sunday.

“Finally, he mentioned Canada,” Taylor said. “Under the circumstances, I think that was fine. It certainly acknowledged Canada. I think certainly the movie was about CIA agent Tony Mendez. I think that President Carter’s remarks put everything in proportion.”

Carter appeared on television last week and said, “90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian,” but the film “gives almost full credit to the American CIA.”

Taylor kept the Americans hidden at his residence and at the home of his deputy, John Sheardown, in Tehran for three months and facilitated their escape by arranging plane tickets and persuading the Ottawa government to issue fake passports. He also agreed to go along with the CIA’s film production cover story to get the Americans out of Iran.

Taylor became a hero in Canada and in the United States where crowds celebrated with banners that proclaimed, “Thank you, Canada.”

Taylor said the movie makes it seem like the Canadians were just along for the ride. Taylor and Carter both noted that Mendez, played by Affleck in the film, was only in Iran for a day and a half.

“The movie is done. President Carter expressed his views, and that’s where we sit. I think, being realistic, there’s not much at this point that can be realized,” Taylor said.

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