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Opinion: Ben Affleck must apologise to NZ for Argo's deception

Wednesday 27 Feb 2013 9:22a.m.

'Say sorry, Affleck'

Congratulations Ben Affleck for Argo’s Oscar - well-deserved.

But what is also deserved now is an apology from Affleck to New Zealand - particularly our courageous and professional diplomats.

It goes like this; Argo suggests that during the hostage crisis, the New Zealand embassy in Tehran refused to shelter the American fugitives.

In the Argo script a CIA agent describes the getaway like this:

"The six of them went out a back exit. Brits turned them away, Kiwis turned them away. The Canadians took them in. They've been there since.”

Watching the film, my first thought was: ‘That doesn't sound right - is this true - surely it can't be?’.

So I sent a tweet asking this question of what our role really was - and was quickly told the real facts.

The New Zealand diplomats didn't turn the hostages away at all - in fact we played a key role assisting the Canadians to shelter them.

Kiwi Ambassador Chris Beeby and his second secretary Richard Sewell actually went beyond the call of duty to help shelter them - even though Iran was at that stage New Zealand's biggest customer for lamb.

Beeby even went as far as visiting the fugitives at their hideaway with the Canadians, and had rented another property ready if they needed to change places.

This obviously put Beeby - and New Zealand - at huge risk. Even Prime Minister Rob Muldoon was kept in the loop.

My Press Gallery colleague Adam Bennett has already done the heavy-lifting on this yarn when Argo was released.

In Wellington circles, Beeby was a legendary figure - the ultimate diplomat, a hard-living, fun-loving character. Both he and Sewell have since passed away.

Many people who knew Beeby say what Affleck has done just isn’t right - and having looked into this I have to agree.

I am not being naive here. I know that a Hollywood blockbuster - even one based on a true story - takes ‘dramatic licence’.

But this is different because not only does Affleck portray our diplomats - and by extension New Zealand - as cowardly, the opposite is true.

They weren't cowardly - they were brave.

And worse still, Affleck was apparently aware of this. He's made some public comments that it wasn't ‘totally fair’.

I'm no movie expert obviously, but I can't really see what slamming New Zealand adds to the film - if anyone else can, let me know.

Some people will say I'm being over-sensitive here. But in my opinion, what Affleck has done just isn’t right.

He has deliberately slammed New Zealand in the biggest movie of 2013 - and for no good reason.

Affleck has besmirched the personal reputation of legendary diplomat Chris Beeby and Richard Sewell. They, and their families deserve better - anyone can see that.

Affleck has not told the truth. Affleck knows it is wrong.

Kiwis didn't turn the hostages away - Kiwis helped them out.

Affleck has danced around this so far - but in my opinion his ambiguous Hollywood talk does not suffice.

It's time for Affleck to put this right. It's time for Affleck to apologise for Argo’s deception.

 
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