Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Iraqi Reporter throws shoes at Bush in Press Conference

Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with Cairo-based network Al Baghdadia Television, had experienced first-hand the brutal violence that consumed Iraq last year, reports the Washington Post:

Zaidi, colleagues said, was kidnapped by Shiite militiamen last year and was later released.
In an eyewitness account of the shoe-throwing incident, Modesto Bee reporter Adam Ashton reports that Bush and Maliki had just finished their speeches and were preparing to take questions from the Iraqi media, who "have never had a chance to ask a question to the American president" when "the shoes started flying."
In additon, Ashton reports that Iraqi security guards removed two more Iraqi journalists who had praised Zaidi's shoe-throwing protest as courageous:
As it ended, a couple Iraqi security guards in suits took away two more Iraqi journalists because one of them called Zaidi's protest "courageous." Hammed bravely stood up for the journalists. Talking to a friend just isn't a crime. They were released a few minutes later after some American officials intervened on their behalf.
Some of the security guards started looming over members of the White House press corps who flew in with Bush, at least until a White House communications aide shooed them away...
Zaidi's TV station is pushing for his release. "Any action taken against Muntathar will remind us of the actions and behaviors taken by the reign of the dictator and the violence, the random arrests, the mass graves and confiscations of freedom from the people," the board of Baghdadiyah TV said.

This wasn't the first time that Bush - or at least a depiction of Bush - has been pelted with shoes in Iraq.
Three weeks ago, HuffPost blogger Jamal Dajani noted that crowds of Iraqis "gathered in Ferdous Square, where Saddam Hussein's statue one stood" and pelted an effigy of Bush with their shoes.

Politico reports that White House Press Secretary Dana Perino may have suffered a black eye in the wake of the shoe-throwing incident:
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was slightly bruised in the aftermath of the shoe-throwing melee at President Bush's news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, a senior administration official said.
But Perino will be fine and is continuing with the presidential party, the official said.
Journalists at the scene said she suffered a black eye, perhaps when she was hit with a microphone.
It's ironic that the president would be pummeled in such a controlled setting, when the White House took elaborate, James-Bond-like precautions to ensure he landed in secret.
UPDATE at 5:08PM:
CNN reports that Bush compared the shoe-throwing incident with heckling during a political rally and described it as "a way to gain attention"
"So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?" Bush told a reporter in response to a question about the incident.
"Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It's one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers.
"It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause is. But one thing is for certain. He caused you to ask me a question about it. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it.

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