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Report says Kucinich praised Syrian dictator, congressman says statement ‘mischaracterized’

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer

Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich is disputing statements a Syrian news agency attributed to him praising Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad during a “fact finding” mission to Syria.

“Today, the Syrian Arab News Agency published an article that contained a number of mistranslations and mischaracterized statements that I made during a news conference in Damascus,” Kucinich said in a statement to The Daily Caller.

“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,” the Syrian Arab News Agency reported Kucinich as saying at a press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus. “President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians.”

He was also reported as criticizing the coverage of the brutal government crackdown against protesters in Syria, saying, “There are some who want to give a wrong picture about what is going on in Syria.”

In his statement to TheDC, Kucinich does not dispute specific quotes. He merely states that “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,” he said. “Given the stakes for Syria and the region, I will consider the article only an error, not a willful intent to mischaracterize my statements or my efforts in the region.”

Since Syrians began staging protests against the Assad regime earlier this year, over 1,300 protesters have reportedly been killed by the regime and many more injured. In April, President Obama called the Syrian government’s use of violence against its people “outrageous.” (New Koch video draws parallel between economic freedom, quality of life)

“If Kucinich believed Syrians should be able to decide themselves the direction and way to go for democratic changes, then he should call for free and fair elections, not celebrate their massacre with its perpetrator,” Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller when presented with the quotes attributed to Kucinich by the Syrian press outlet.

“Just as former Kennedy-era attorney general Ramsey Clark shilled for Ayatollah Khomeini, and British parliamentarian George Galloway shilled for Saddam Hussein, it seems that the Syrian dictator has found his useful idiot.”

Kucinich’s full statement:

Today, the Syrian Arab News Agency published an article that contained a number of mistranslations and mischaracterized statements that I made during a news conference in Damascus.

While on fact-finding mission in Syria, I was asked to share my initial reactions with some journalists, which I did. During my remarks I stressed the importance of the government paying attention to the democratic aspirations of the people of Syria. It is up to the people of Syria to decide the future of their government. There is a process of national dialogue beginning and this process is important. It is important that the Assad government listen carefully to the just demands and act positively to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the people of Syria. The process of national dialogue which has now begun is a step in the direction of identifying necessary reforms.

I did not come to Syria with my mind made up. After discussions with people at many different levels of society, I am convinced of the need for honesty, fairness and dialogue.

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.

It is unfortunate that translation errors can create such problems. Given the stakes for Syria and the region, I will consider the article only an error, not a willful intent to mischaracterize my statements or my efforts in the region.

I intend to continue my efforts to determine as best I can exactly what is happening in Syria, ever more mindful of the maxim, “lost in translation.”