Pompeo Ridiculed for Getting Numbers Wrong in Tweet Marking End of Iran Hostage Crisis Anniversary

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a tweet Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of the end of the Iran hostage crisis.

However, critics were quick to quick to point out a problem—he had managed to get his numbers and dates wrong. The crisis had not even begun 40 years ago.

"40 years ago today, extremists in Iran released 52 American diplomats they held hostage for 444 days. Iran still holds innocent Americans hostage," the secretary's tweet said, along with a picture showing the released diplomats stepping from a plane.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at Dupont Circle Hotel to meet with Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers' Party Committee Kim Yong Chol, a representative of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on January 18 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

The hostages were in fact released on January 20, 1981, which was 38 years ago Sunday, having been kidnapped on November 4, 1979, after protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and held hostage for 444 days.

On social media, Pompeo was ridiculed.

"40 years ago today, they had not even been kidnapped yet. How could the Secretary of State, of all people, get this wrong? This is ridiculous," tweeted Walter Shaub, a former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Later Sunday, Pompeo deleted the tweet and replaced it with a message that read "38 years ago today, extremists in Iran released 52 American diplomats they held hostage for 444 days. Iran still holds innocent Americans hostage."

Pompeo has long been a staunch critic of Iran, which he has accused of fomenting conflict throughout the Middle East.

In a follow-up tweet Sunday, Pompeo tagged Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as the country's president, Hassan Rouhani, and its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, calling for the release of U.S. citizens jailed in Iran.

"@khamenei_ir, @HassanRouhani, and @JZarif should stop the hostage terror campaign and mark this anniversary by releasing Bob Levinson, Xiyue Wang, the Namazis, and other hostages immediately," tweeted Pompeo.

Levinson disappeared on Kish Island, Iran, in 2007. U.S. officials believe he is being held captive by the Iranian government. Wang was a doctoral candidate from Princeton, who was arrested on a research trip to Iran in 2016 on espionage charges and sentenced to ten years in prison. Siamak Namazi was detained in Iran in 2016 and sentenced to ten years in prison on espionage charges, while his father, Baquer Namazi was arrested in February 2016 and also imprisoned. Both are Iranian Americans.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, with many workers furloughed as part of the government shutdown.