WASHINGTON — Former hostage David Jacobsen returned home "to the land of the living" today for a warm welcome from President Reagan and urged reporters "in the name of God . . . back off" from their questions lest they endanger the lives of other hostages.
Before Jacobsen and members of his family met with Reagan, the 55-year-old hospital administrator from Huntington Beach spoke with reporters on a porch outside the Oval Office, prefacing his statement of gratitude and ending it with a plea for silence from the American news media.
"What I say today, what you record, what you speculate upon is heard throughout the entire world within 24 hours," Jacobsen told reporters gathered below him in the rain.
"A simple speculation on your part could cause the deaths of my dear friend Tom Sutherland or Terry Anderson, or Joe Cicippio or any of the other hostages, and I ask that you would be responsible and . . . please do not engage in unreasonable and unrealistic speculation," Jacobsen said.
As the Reagans were ushering him into the Oval Office, a reporter asked the President about reports that the Administration traded arms to Iran to gain Jacobsen's and other hostages' release.
"There's no way we can answer questions having anything to do with this without endangering the people we're trying to rescue," Reagan said, scowling.
'In the Name of God'
Jacobsen turned toward persistent reporters and angrily scolded, "In the name of God, would you please just be responsible and back off."
Earlier, Jacobsen, looking fit in a new blue suit, told Reagan that during 17 months of captivity, "I never lost hope of being a free man again.
"I know that you have sought our freedom from the day our first American was taken hostage," Jacobsen told a beaming Reagan. "Mr. President, you really have my eternal gratitude. You're the leader of a truly great country. I'm proud to be an American, and I want to thank you very, very much. You're quite a man."
Before going to the White House, Jacobsen told well-wishers after he landed on a flight from Germany:
"I love America. I'm just so thrilled today that I'm here, to be back with everyone and with my family. I have prayed for this day for 17 months."
Then, as he did when he was released Sunday, he repeated the 27th Psalm: "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
"Friends," he added, "I see the goodness of the Lord. We're in America and I'm free and we're going to get the other men out."
To Anderson and Sutherland, who shared many of his months in captivity, he pledged, "Tom and Terry, I won't forget you and we won't forget you."
He noted that three other Americans were recently taken hostage and said, "They must be freed. There is no cause, no political goal which can justify holding these innocent men captive. They must be allowed to share the joy of a reunion with their families and their loved ones."
After his remarks, Jacobsen walked over to a small group, spotted Peggy Say, Anderson's sister, and embraced her. The two held each other as they talked for several moments.
Later, Say, tears in her eyes, said he had reassured her about Anderson.
Jacobsen also greeted Jeremy Levin and his wife. Levin, a Cable News Network reporter, had been held hostage in Lebanon but became a free man in February, 1985.
Jacobsen, 55, was administrator of Beirut's American University Hospital when he was kidnaped May 28, 1985.