Eight Americans who were held hostage in Iran demanded Thursday that Congress investigate allegations that the Reagan-Bush campaign delayed their release in 1980.
“The question of whether there is evidence of wrongdoing must be answered by an unbiased, bipartisan congressional investigation with full subpoena power,” the former hostages said in a letter to lawmakers.
“Unless this happens, speculation and unanswered questions will erode public confidence in our electoral system,” they said.
The former hostages joined 75 Democratic lawmakers who have called for an investigation to determine if the Ronald Reagan campaign promised the Iranians weapons in exchange for keeping the hostages until after the election.
The 52 hostages, held for 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, were freed on Jan. 21, 1981, moments after Reagan took the oath of office as President.
The hostages were a major issue in the 1980 campaign, as Democrat Jimmy Carter tried to win a second term.
President Bush, who was Reagan’s running mate in 1980, has denied any involvement in the hostage matter.
Two of the former hostages spoke at a seminar Thursday.
“I believe there was a good possibility” that political machinations kept the hostages in captivity longer than necessary, said Barry Rosen, adding he is still affected by the experience.
Moorhead Kennedy said he did not place any credibility in the rumors until he read recent reports by Gary Sick, a former National Security Council aide.
Sick, a respected expert on Iran and a professor at Columbia University, said scores of interviews led him to conclude that Reagan campaign officials may have negotiated with the Iranians.
He said his suspicions deepened because the Iranians began to receive large supplies of weapons--through Israel--shortly after Reagan’s inauguration.
There is enough evidence to warrant an investigation into whether anyone “conspired to prolong a kidnaping,” said Kennedy, a former Foreign Service officer.
Besides Kennedy and Rosen, other former hostages signing the letter were Charles W. Scott, Jerry Plotkin, David Roeder, Robert Ode, Kevin Hermening and Donald Hohman.