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Past Simple vs Past Continuous

4 years ago
Hello, everybody!

I want to ask you about two English tenses (Past Continuous and Past Simple). I have a sentence from a test.
A translator (1)______ the president what the Chinese visitors were (2)_____ .
In this sentence I used:
(1) was telling;
(2) saying.
A translator (1) was telling the president what the Chinese visitors were (2) saying.
I've made this tense choice for (1) because in (2) we already have "were". This means that the second sentence is in Present Continuous. So it can be assumed that the two actions in the sentence were happening simultaneously.
I imagine this situation as if someone is showing me the photo of the president and an interpreter and some Chinese visitors. And this person is telling me, "Look! This picture was taken at 6 o’clock yesterday. A translator (1) was telling the president what the Chinese visitors were (2) saying."
The thing is that the key section of the book gives "told" for (1).
Personally, I think both are fine.
What do you think?
If someone thinks that only "told" (not was telling) can be used please explain why.

Thank you very much!