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'Argo' diplomat praises New Zealand's efforts in hostage drama

Published: 3:33PM Thursday March 14, 2013 Source: ONE News

New Zealand diplomats visited American hostages portrayed in the Oscar-winning film Argo and gave them beer, according to an American at the centre of the saga.

Lee Schatz - one of the diplomats held hostage in the 1979 crisis - has set the record straight about New Zealand's involvement following Ago's success.

The film showed New Zealand diplomats turning away a group of Americans trying to escape from Tehran during the Iranian revolution in 1979.

In reality, a New Zealander drove the Americans to the airport in Tehran so they could fly to Switzerland.

New Zealand ambassador Chris Beeby and his second secretary Richard Sewell met the six US embassy workers "a number of times" while they sheltered in a Canadian official's house during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and helped raise their spirits, Schatz told Bloomberg media.

Beeby bought them at least one case of beer at Christmas time, after asking Schatz if there was anything special they needed.

"I have fond memories of those two gentlemen," said Schatz.

"If they were still alive I would have called them up and said 'hey, this sucks'."

Schatz said New Zealand's two-man bureau in Iran did not have the capability to shelter the hostages, and Sewell went to the departure lounge at the airport on the Americans' last day in Iran to make sure they escaped.

"Everyone who touched us in those weeks and months put themselves in danger," said Schatz.

"It was diplomats in a modern time doing some really, really, heroic things - and I don't use that term easily."

'Grave misrepresentation'

Hollywood's attempt to re-write history has been condemned by New Zealand's Parliament.

Earlier this week, MPs voted unanimously to support a motion from New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters that condemned the way New Zealand is portrayed in Oscar-winning film Argo.

Peters called it a "grave misrepresentation" of the courageous and commendable role of New Zealand diplomats.

"I move that this house acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of former New Zealand diplomats Chris Beeby and Richard Sewell," Peters said.

"Our courageous New Zealand diplomats' inspirational actions were of significant help to the American hostages and deserve the historic and factual record to be corrected."