Michael White, a Navy veteran with ties to San Diego County who was jailed in Iran and recently freed, appeared with President Donald Trump in a video played during the Republican National Convention on Monday.
The RNC kicked off Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the official convention is taking place.
White was among a group of former hostages who shared their gratitude with the president in a pre-recorded video, which was shot earlier at the White House.
"We got you all back, and we have some more that we're working on right now to get back that we'd better do," Trump said before telling White to recount his story.
"My name is Michael White, Mr. President," White said. "I do, once again … it's an honor to be here, honor to meet you in person. Basically what had happened with me is, I went, traveled over to the country of Iran. It turned out there was a major, major trap, and I was apprehended there. I went through a lot in their injustice system, in the Iranian justice system. Iran is an oppressive, extortionist, terrorist regime -- you know what I'm talking about. But what you did, sir, was you were able to get me out of that prison in record time. It was amazing."
"Thank you very much," Trump replied before moving on to hear the stories of the other detainees.
White, of Imperial Beach, was detained by Iranian authorities in July 2018 while visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with. He was convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online, and was sentenced to a decade in prison. He was released in June 2020 as part of a prisoner deal involving an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. officials said in June.
“Simply put, the ‘charges’ against Michael were pretexts for a state-sponsored kidnap-for-ransom scheme,” family spokesman Jon Franks said shortly after White's release. “The tragedy of this case is Michael’s only crime was falling in love with Iran and its people-- for whom he cares deeply.”
In March, White was released from prison on a medical furlough as Iran struggled to cope with the coronavirus outbreak and turned over to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in Iran. He was among tens of thousands of prisoners granted medical furloughs by Iran, which was one of the first countries to be hit hard by the pandemic.
White’s mother told The Associated Press that she was especially concerned about her son’s health because of his battles with cancer.
Trump formally received the nomination of his party on Monday, as did Vice-President Mike Pence. The convention continues through Thursday, when Trump is expected to formally accept that nomination.