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The Most Memorable, Controversial 'Ahmadinejad In The U.S.' Moments

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad isn't going out quietly.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad isn't going out quietly.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will miss the United Nations. The diplomatic bubble gives him a chance to visit the United States, without quite visiting the United States. He gets to sit down with the likes of Charlie Rose and Piers Morgan. His speech at the UN is his annual soapbox opportunity, in the very heart of the beast no less, to air his well-worn opinions on the Holocaust, homosexuals, and the general evils of the West.

With the second term of his presidency winding up, this year may well be his last. Given that he's brought a retinue of 140 people with him, that he's already said in interviews that the Jewish state did not have "roots" in the Middle East, and that he's slammed homosexuality as ugly behavior, it doesn't look like he's going out with a whimper.

5. Mass Walkout at the UN

In September 2011, after Ahmadinejad fell into a familiar groove of doubting the Holocaust and the West's diabolical aims, a U.S. diplomat left the floor. As agreed upon beforehand, the delegates from all 27 European Union states followed suit leaving the room half-empty.

4. "Joking" about Salman Rushdie death threat

Providing yet more evidence that Ahmadinejad is going to go out with a bang this year, the Iranian president "joked" about the whereabouts of novelist Salman Rushdie. When asked whether he believed that the author, who lived in hiding for 10 years, was still living under a death threat he said: “Is he here in the United States? You shouldn’t broadcast that. If he is in the United States, you shouldn’t broadcast it for his own safety.” In 1989, the Iranian regime issued a fatwa against Rushdie for his novel, "The Satanic Verses," which it considered blasphemous.

3. '9/11 was an inside job'

Not to be discouraged by his proximity to Ground Zero, in September 2010 Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. authorities of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks in order to save Israel. He said that traces of the hijackers were never discovered while passports were found in the debris of the Twin Towers of men who had been connected with U.S. officials. The comments provoked outrage, with many UN delegates walking out during his speech.

2. 'No homosexuals in Iran'

With an introduction as someone who exhibited all the signs of a "petty and cruel" dictator, Ahmadinejad didn't disappoint an audience of Ivy Leaguers at New York's Columbia University. He hit the usual bases -- Palestine, 9/11, the evils of the West -- before, in response to a question about the execution of homosexuals, denying that Iran had homosexuals. "In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this," he said.

1. Bathed in light

Speaking to one of Iran's senior clerics after his speech at the UN General Assembly in 2005, Ahmadinejad said he felt that he was bathed in light during his speech and that for the nearly 30 minutes of its duration, the audience did not even blink. "I am not exaggerating when I say they did not blink; it's not an exaggeration, because I was looking," he said. "They were astonished as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic republic." It led to speculation -- and criticism from some hard-liners -- that Ahmadinejad had had a brush with the divine.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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