Ahmadinejad's Day One in New York: A Hostile Reception, a Rambling Talk

September 25, 2007

Author: Anthony Faiola and Robin Wright

Source: The Washigton Post


Greeted by large protests and jabs from local politicians and U.S. presidential candidates, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced a public skewering Monday at the first stop of his three-day trip here: As he prepared to deliver a speech at Columbia University, the university's president, Lee Bollinger, introduced the Iranian leader as a man who appeared to lack "intellectual courage," had a "fanatical mind-set" and may be "astonishingly undereducated."

"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger told Ahmadinejad from a lectern across the stage. He said that Ahmadinejad's past denials of the Holocaust might fool "the illiterate and ignorant" but that "when you come to a place like this, it makes you quite simply ridiculous."

A leader known to live largely protected from criticism at home, Ahmadinejad appeared shocked and insulted. He chastised Bollinger for judging his speech before it had even begun and suggested that such a move was unforgivable in a university setting.

Ahmadinejad, who in the past has argued that Israel should be "wiped off the map," repeated his assertions that the Holocaust should be researched "from different perspectives" and said Palestinians should not be "paying the price for an event they had nothing to do with." The Iranian leader also blasted U.S. sanctions against his country, insisted on Iran's right to nuclear development and declared his willingness to "dialogue" with U.S. leaders.