Political language, while crucial to our general understanding of public institutions and policies, is both useful and dangerous. Barack Obama, to take a rather inexpensive example, has paradoxically resembled a socialist and a fascist at different times throughout his Presidency in the eyes of some disgruntled voters. The political Right has even managed to transfigure the term ‘liberal’ into a curse word over the years. More worrying than a slimy campaign slogan here and there, however, is the pressing reality that media outlets are employing political language to inform the American people. Case in point, Iran’s Presidential election.

Hassan Rouhani won 50.7% of about 36 million votes in Iran, and will assume the Presidency come early August. Astonishingly, almost every mainstream media outlet has characterized Rouhani as a ‘moderate,’ despite a track record that speaks much to the contrary. The New York Times headline which reads, ‘Iran Moderate Wins Presidency by a Large Margin,’ is thus grossly misleading at best. Any fair-minded analysis of Hassan Rouhani’s upbringing and political career will fail to staple the term ‘moderate’ to his politics.

Rouhani has a strong clerical background in the Islamic faith. Studying religion at a very early age, he had a vast exposure to the Shiite sect of Islam. Shia scholars taught the President-elect throughout his youth, and Rouhani went on to attend the University of Tehran, where he received a BA in judicial law. His political career began in the 1960s, when he became an acolyte of Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini would eventually lead the 1979 Iranian Revolution and assume the first Supreme Leadership role in the newly established Islamic Republic. Khomeini was a reactionary Islamic theocrat, and set the groundwork for today’s political framework in Iran.

Rouhani, for his part, was a devout follower of Khomeini. Furthermore, Rouhani became a vocal critic of the Shah of Iran, who ruled from 1941 until his overthrow in 1979. In fact, Hassan Rouhani was forced to flee Iran in 1977 after declaring Khomeini an ‘Imam,’ which significantly undermined the Shah’s authority. After Khomeini’s successful overthrow of the Shah, Rouhani returned to Iran to help stabilize the Republic. Since his return after the Revolution, Rouhani has assumed a long list of government positions, including Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, as well as multiple roles in Parliament. More salient still, he also served as Iran’s nuclear negotiator.

When a glimpse of light has been shed on Rouhani’s political record, no reasonable person would describe the newly elected President of Iran with language such as ‘moderate.’ Although Rouhani was, without question, the most moderate candidate on Election Day in Iran, that distinction does not equate to a moderate politician. Unfortunately the mainstream media’s prerequisite for concision as opposed to explanation has misled the American people in a crucial manner. Many Americans are now under the impression that Iran has taken a step in the right direction. With a moderate President-elect, Iran will now have the capacity to improve its economy and its international relations.

The above depiction has pervaded the media’s mindset over the past week, and yet nothing could be further from accurate. The Ayatollah Khamenei essentially hand-picked conservative, if not reactionary candidates to run for President, and one of those candidates has been elected. That candidate, Rouhani, was a staunch supporter of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who once famously issued a death threat against Salman Rushdie for simply writing a novel. In addition, the current Supreme Leader, Khamenei, still holds all the power in Iran. If any turnaround is to be experienced regarding Iran’s economic or foreign policy, Khamenei will be the reason for that change. President-elect Rouhani, all things considered, is a figurehead without much political power.

Rouhani has also avowed to continue Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. As far as the West in general, and the United States in particular is concerned this is not earth shattering. After all, Rouhani will not have any real power to influence Iranian foreign policy in the coming years. Ayatollah Khamenei’s slippery remarks about nuclear energy and nuclear warfare, on the other hand, remain unchanged.

The Supreme Leader’s nebulous statements about Iran’s nuclear program have caused international sanctions to increase dramatically over the years. As with any serious sanctions, the lower classes always experience the hardest hit, and Iran is not an exception. The United States ought to lead an effort to lift these sanctions and begin addressing the problem with diplomacy. The solution to Khamenei’s misguided comments should not be an institutionalized impoverishing of the Iranian people. Rather, the U.S. should dust off its diplomacy tools and use them overseas more often.

Economic suffering aside, political, social, and religious repression in Iran are still serious matters with which the mainstream media should concern itself. It is not good enough to cover a 30 second piece on Iran’s electing a ‘moderate’ President. This coverage does much more than to misinform. An awful sense of complacency will set in amongst the American people, wherein we will soon forget about our brothers and sisters in Iran who are struggling everyday to attain their rights.

Rouhani’s election notwithstanding, the conflation of mosque and state in Iran will continue to repress Iranians. In short, Iran still has a long way to travel before its economy repairs and its foreign relations recover. In any case, this Presidential election should not be used as an excuse for the media to take its eye off the ball.