During his introduction of CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour as a guest on The Daily Show Monday night, host Trevor Noah joked that when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi abruptly canceled a planned interview with her last week, he “left her looking like she was giving therapy to a ghost.”
Speaking from her home in London, Amanpour broke down why she ultimately decided to walk away from the coveted interview instead of wearing a headscarf as the president’s staff were demanding. She explained that she has always had the first international sit-down with the latest Iranian president, but never before had she been asked to cover her hair on American soil.
“There is no law in the United States that requires a journalist to wear a scarf for any interview,” she said matter-of-factly.
When the aide first approached her to say that Raisi wanted her to wear a scarf, Amanpour said her first reaction was, “Why?” followed quickly by, “No, I don’t have to wear a scarf.”
“As a journalist, I made, instantaneously, a journalistic decision,” she continued, snapping her fingers, “based on the principle that a) it wasn’t law, and b) you don’t get strong-armed by a foreign government or any government when you’re trying to sit and conduct a previously arranged interview.”
After the cheers died down, Noah brought up the conspicuous “timing” of the incident—amidst massive protests in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested for violating the country’s strict dress code.
Amanpour agreed that Raisi did “not want to be seen with a woman whose head was uncovered right at the same time that in his own country there was an uprising in the streets” over the very same issue. Later, she couldn’t help but laugh when she quoted Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi, who recently told her that if Iranian men are “so horny and so unable to control themselves” over a woman’s hair, “then maybe they should take a cold shower or look somewhere else.”
Finally, Amanpour likened Iran’s rules that restrict how women can dress to the many anti-abortion laws that have been going into effect after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “It’s something incredibly important that we have to keep an eye on,” she said, “and in that moment, I was not, as a journalist or as a woman, going to put a headscarf on.”