Dennis Kucinich has scolded the international media for exaggerating the violent protests in Syria, reports the Syrian Arab News Agency. Spotted unexpectedly in a Damascus hotel by a CNN journalist on Monday morning, the Ohio congressman has now said the press is "jumping to conclusions without talking to people and listening to what they want."
The purpose of Kucinich's trip is still somewhat clouded with intrigue. We noted earlier how Kucinich has been parroting the points of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in interview with the American press, and his more recent statements to SANA reiterate his commitment to defending Assad:
"There are some who want to give a wrong picture about what is going on in Syria," Kucinich said in a press conference held on Tuesday at the Four Seasons Hotel, adding that things should be left to the Syrian people, government and leadership to decide for themselves the direction and the way to go for democratic changes.
The U.S. Congressman described what is taking place in terms of the meetings of opposition and independent figures who are expressing themselves and their views openly and freely as "a largely positive progress", saying "President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this."
"President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians," said Kucinich, voicing his belief that people in Syria are seeking a real change which is up to them.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Noe and Walid Raad at Bloomberg argue that despite Assad's efforts to reconcile differences in his third and most recent address to the nation, his past disparaging comments about the protesters--he called them "saboteurs" and "germs"--has deeply tarnished his public image. "Whoever looks into the reactions to President Bashar al-Assad’s last speech would find it hard to find even one positive statement in its favor since almost everyone found it negative on all levels," columnist Mohamed Krichen told Noe and Raad.
UPDATE: Dennis Kucinich claims that his comments to SANA were mistranslated and taken out of context. On Tuesday afternoon, Kucinich said in a statement:
A story written about my remarks by the Syrian Arab News Agency unfortunately mistranslated several of my statements and did not reflect my direct quotes. Arab-speaking friends accompanying me have explained that the problem may have come from a mistranslation as well as the degree of appreciation and affection their state-sponsored media has for President Assad.
Kucinich reiterated "the need for honesty, fairness and dialogue" and says that his remarks "stressed the importance of the government paying attention to the democratic aspirations of the people of Syria." The congressman did not, however, directly deny any of the points expressed in the SANA article.
Foreign Policy's David Kenner points out an obvious fallacy in Kucinich's rebuttal:
But that explanation doesn't make any sense. Kucinich doesn't speak Arabic, so his remarks were presumably in English, and SANA's article is written in English -- so no translation should have been necessary. Kucinich's press office in Washington did not immediately respond to a query on this point. It seems eminently obvious that SANA was exploiting Kucinich's presence as evidence of international support for the Assad regime -- something the congressman should have known they would do before he arrived in Damascus.