CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Monday he had no regrets about his handling of the Iran hostage crisis more than 30 years ago, saying he didn’t attack the country as his advisers proposed because thousands of people would have died.
Islamic militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and seized its occupants. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
Carter acknowledged that his failure to bring the hostages home — including a botched rescue mission in which eight U.S. servicemen died — led to his election defeat to President Ronald Reagan in 1980. The hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981, just minutes after Reagan was sworn in as the new president.
“I don’t have any doubt that was the main factor in my defeat,” Carter told reporters in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, where he was helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity. “Obviously, if I had rescued the hostages or they had not been taken, I would have been re-elected.”