The photo (see it here) was taken on September 3 and shows Morningstar laying flowers and bowing his head before a towering statue of Aliyev in Baku's Fizuli Park. (Heydar Aliyev is known within Azerbaijan as the Great Father, national savior, and founder of the modern Azerbaijani state.)
The photograph was taken on the same day that Morningstar presented his credentials to current President Ilham Aliyev, Heydar's son.
The pro-democracy website Azeri Report writes that Morningstar's apparent bow to Aliyev "set a precedent" for U.S. diplomats.
A spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Baku described Morningstar's visit to the monument as merely part of standard protocol for new ambassadors to Azerbaijan. The spokesperson told RFE/RL there was no additional meaning behind the bow.
The photograph of Morningstar was posted on the popular Azerbaijan-Azerbaycan Facebook page and elicted a wide range of comments:
One has to be proud to see how American bows to Azeri.
They don't show the respect, they just need our oil
One can bow only to God. People should not bow to people or to statues.
He is not Azeri. He is an American, most democratic nation in the world.
The bow row recalls the hubbub over U.S. President Barack Obama's diplomatic pas de deux when he appeared to bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2009.