What is Piers Morgan thinking? On Monday, he said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "makes perfect rational sense" when talking about broadly about "Afghanistan and Iraq and America's response to 9/11." On Wednesday night, he cast Ahmadinejad's UN speech as "for him, relatively low key, dare I say almost reasonable."
New York Times columnist Nick Kristof was quick to provide some context. "It was reasonable by Ahmadinejad standards," he noted. "Not by sort of normal conventional standards." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
"I mean, after all he suggested that 9/11 was some kind of dark conspiracy, and for him to accuse other countries of nuclear responsibility is a little bit rich," continued Kristof.
And does it really matter if any speech is "almost reasonable" by Ahmadinejad standards? Regardless, Morgan actually threw a half-compliment his way on Monday. "At other times, he makes perfect rational sense, you know, when he talks in a more broad-brush stroke way about the Middle East and about Afghanistan and Iraq and America's response to 9/11," he claimed of Ahmadinejad.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on Piers Morgan Tonight on September 27 at 9:01 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: Good evening. Our big story tonight. Ahmadinejad at the U.N. made his final speech as president of Iran. Today's speech that was, for him, relatively low key, dare I say almost reasonable. No walkouts from diplomats this time around, although the U.S. and Canadian delegations stayed away. And Israel's representatives were also absent because of Yon Kippur. But even so, President Ahmadinejad didn't pass on the opportunity to paint Iran as the victim and to blame Israel.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, president of Iran (Through Translator): Testing neo-generations of ultra-modern weaponry and the pledge to disclose these armaments on due time is now being used as a neo-language of threat against nations to coerce them into accepting an new era of hegemony. Continued threats by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality.
(End Video Clip)
MORGAN: Nick Kristof spent some time in Iran this summer. He's a columnist for the New York Times and his best-selling book with his wife Sheryl WuDunn is "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide." It's now being turned into a series on PBS, and Nick joins me now.
Nick, President Ahmadinejad is a fascinating character, whichever way you look at him, whatever you think of him, love him, loathe him, he's a man who commands attention. Oddly today, he just seemed to be on his best behavior. What do you – what do you read into that?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, columnist, New York Times: Well, I mean, you said his speech was a little more reasonable this year. It was reasonable by Ahmadinejad standards.
MORGAN: Yes. (Laughter)
KRISTOF: Not by sort of normal conventional standards. I mean, after all he suggested that 9/11 was some kind of dark conspiracy, and for him to accuse other countries of nuclear responsibility is a little bit rich. But, you know, I think that he has been under pressure at home, frankly, for this wackiness. A lot of Iranians are just embarrassed.
KRISTOF: By the bad press that he brings his country. And he's almost out of time. He'll be out of office in a year from now. He's also -- he's losing power within the country. So I think he's a declining force. Thank goodness.
MORGAN: Does the president of Iran really have much power?
KRISTOF: Well, that really depends on the situation. I mean the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, is the person who is truly running the country. If the President has the Supreme Leader's confidence, or beyond the road, if the Supreme Leader is ill, then the President could. Right now there is real tension between them, and Ahmadinejad is really marginalized both vis-a-vis the Supreme Leader and vis-a-vis other political factions.