Iranian president blows off CNN interview in NYC after Christiane Amanpour declines head scarf

Iran’s president bailed on a long-scheduled interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday because she declined to wear a head scarf.

The journalist said the interview with President Ebrahim Raisi had been scheduled for weeks, but that Raisi was running at least 40 minutes late.

The interview was planned to coincide with Raisi’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan.

Amanpour said Raisi’s aide approached her and suggested she wear a head scarf for the interview. In recent weeks, Iran has been rocked by protests after a young woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody after she was arrested for not wearing a head scarf. At least eight people have been killed in the demonstrations.

“I politely declined,” Amanpour said on Twitter. “We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves. I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran.”

Amanpour was raised in Tehran and also interviewed Iran’s two previous presidents, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani. Raisi’s aide insisted, but Amanpour refused and called the demand “unprecedented and unexpected.”

Raisi never showed up, and Amanpour tweeted a photo that showed her sitting across from an empty chair.

“As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to speak with President Raisi,” she wrote.