Report: Former Texas governor sabotaged Jimmy Carter in Iran hostage crisis

Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes with then-President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. Photo: Getty

Former Texas Gov. John Connally (R) met Middle Eastern leaders in 1980 to convince Iran to delay releasing American hostages — part of an effort to sabotage then-President Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign, according to a New York Times report.

Why it matters: Ronald Reagan's subsequent presidency ushered in a conservative era that remains a model for Republicans. If Carter had secured the release of the hostages, he might have won instead.

  • Carter's aides have long suspected that his campaign was torpedoed by Reagan affiliates who wanted to delay the release of American hostages until after the election.

Driving the news: Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a protege of Connally, told the Times that he accompanied Connally on a tour of the Middle East in the summer of 1980, and that Connally wanted to get the message to Iran's leaders.

  • With Carter now in hospice care, Barnes felt like it was time to share his 43-year-old secret, the New York Times writes.

What happened: After spreading the message to Middle Eastern leaders, Connally and Barnes briefed the Reagan campaign in a lounge at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Barnes told the paper.

  • The hostages were held until the day Reagan was inaugurated.

Between the lines: The term "October surprise" was originally coined by Reagan's camp, describing fears that Carter would get the hostages out right before the election.

Of note: Connally was in President John. F. Kennedy's limo when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

  • Connally was wounded in the back, wrist and thigh.

What they're saying: "History needs to know that this happened," Barnes, who turns 85 next month, said in one of several interviews on the topic.

Yes, but: While documents in several archives corroborate the basic timeline, the story is difficult to confirm after so much time, the New York Times writes.

The other side: John B. Connally III, the former governor’s eldest son, told the paper that he remembered his father taking the Middle East trip but never heard about any message to Iran.

  • "It doesn't sound like my dad," he said.

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