Obama – who hugged both Rezaian and his wife, Iranian journalist Yeganeh Salehi – specifically lauded Rezaian’s brother, Ali Rezaian, and journalists at The Post and elsewhere for working tirelessly to secure his freedom.
In an interview on Monday, Rezaian described the meeting as “a friendly, informal” encounter that lasted a few minutes. In addition to Obama, the meeting was attended by national security adviser Susan E. Rice and Brett McGurk, the State Department official who helped negotiate the release of Rezaian and four other imprisoned Americans in January.
“It’s been very gratifying and humbling just to see how much has been done on my behalf throughout this time, from my colleagues in the media to everyday Americans, the international community and all the way up to the highest levels of the American government,” Rezaian said. “‘Grateful’ is sort of the order of the day.”
The White House said the meeting was “on the margins” of the president’s visit to the State Department for a U.S. chiefs of mission conference. Rezaian and his wife had been planning to talk with Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whom they saw separately from the president, but learned Monday morning that Obama wanted to meet with them.
Speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not have a chance to speak with Obama after his talk with Rezaian but that the president had been looking forward to meeting the journalist.
“You know, obviously, the president and a number of members of his team dedicated a lot of time and energy to securing Jason’s release,” Earnest said. “We, obviously, are pleased that he’s back in the United States, and the president was pleased we’ve had an opportunity to welcome him home in person.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Juliet Eilperin