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Canadian Envoy Who Hid Americans During Iran Hostage Crisis Dies

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And now let's take a moment to remember a Canadian diplomat who became a hero to Americans. Ken Taylor has died after a diagnosis of colon cancer. He was 81 years old. Taylor was Canada's ambassador to Iran in 1979. And he is the man who helped hide Americans during the hostage crisis that began that year.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

They were Americans who escaped the U.S. Embassy as it was overrun by Iranians. Taylor hid the Americans at his home and the home of his deputy for months. The story broke once the diplomats were safely out of Iran.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sources say Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor played the key role in the risky and top-secret operation that led to the Americans' escape. Taylor and three other remaining Canadian officials flew out of Tehran yesterday after Canada announced it was closing the embassy for security reasons. But the real reason was disclosed early this morning, when the Montreal newspaper La Presse broke the news of the secret sheltering of the six Americans.

MONTAGNE: That was from the CBC in 1980. The crisis was then depicted in the 2012 Oscar-winning movie "Argo," directed by Ben Affleck.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ARGO")

PAGE LEONG: (As Pat Taylor) Sahar's on the bus.

VICTOR GARBER: (As Ken Taylor) Great. Sahar will be fine.

BEN AFFLECK: (As Tony Mendez) Thank you.

GARBER: (As Ken Taylor) Thank you. You two leave right now. We'll be on a train in half an hour.

AFFLECK: (As Tony Mendez) Good.

MONTAGNE: According to Ken Taylor, that film wasn't a very accurate depiction of his time in Iran. Here he is speaking to CBC Television.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KENNETH TAYLOR: Argo was a - what would you say? It was a wonderful presentation of chaos, of tension. In fact, as the - Ben Affleck is a master at creating that sense of tension. Pat and I were in Los Angeles watching it with Ben Affleck. And it goes on, and it's pure fiction, "Argo."

GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Pure fiction?

TAYLOR: Almost. With the exception of the six people being in the Canadian household...

STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Yeah.

TAYLOR: And getting out with Canadian passports, the rest is a marvelous Hollywood fantasy. But Pat's entranced by this. Suddenly, she turns to me, and she said, we did get out OK.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: That's Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor, who has died at age 81. The year the hostages were released, he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for his actions by President Ronald Reagan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.