BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — The journalist who hurled his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush has described his attack as “ugly” and asked the Iraqi government for leniency.
A government spokesman confirmed Thursday that Muntadhar al-Zaidi penned a contrite handwritten letter to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki requesting compassionate treatment. Yaseen al-Majeed, the prime minister’s media adviser and spokesman, read CNN part of the letter, saying al-Zaidi describes what he did as “the great ugly act I perpetrated” and says an excuse would not be enough for that.
Al-Zaidi is hailed as a hero by many Iraqis protesting his detention after he threw both of his shoes at Bush while the U.S. president and al-Maliki were holding a news conference Sunday during Bush’s unannounced visit to Baghdad. Neither shoe hit Bush, and the journalist was knocked to the ground, hustled out of the room and arrested by security officials. As he was pushed to the floor, the reporter shouted out that his shoe-throwing — a traditional insult in Arab culture — was a “farewell kiss” to a “dog” who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
His actions drew attention from around the globe and adulation in the Arab world.