New York, New York - The visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been surrounded by controversy. Since becoming president of Iran in 2005 Ahmadinejad has made statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the destruction of Israel. His recent visit to the United States in order to address the U.N. General Assembly and planned visit to speak at Columbia University has been the focus of many debates. The question as to whether an avowed enemy of the United States and flagrant anti-Semite should be allowed to speak openly at an American University has been questioned by many. But one other public appearance by Ahmadinejad upon his arrival in the United States managed to slip by virtually unnoticed to the public and the entire media, the entire media, that is, except for TBNN.
In an exclusive investigation, TBNN was able to discover that President Ahmadinejad's first speaking engagement upon arriving in the United States on Sunday was at the Baker Street Unitarian Unaversalist Congregation. Ahmadinejad addressed the congregation during their regular Sunday morning "time of gathering."
"I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today" stated Ahmadinejad. "It is a comfort to know that there are still some left in America who stand for freedom of speech and the right to think and believe according to one's own conscience."
Ahmadinejad spoke for over an hour to the packed house of over 500 people. After he was finished he received a standing ovation from the congregation. At the end of the "service" the entire congregation joined hands with Admadinejad and sang "We Shall Overcome."
While this first speaking engagement of Ahmadinejad's went largely unnoticed, some who were privy to the events ahead of time were "deeply troubled" by his appearance.
"I for one am not pleased" said Evylyn Pietrewlevski, a member of Baker Street. "I understand the importance of diversity and tolerance. I don't want to offend the Iranian people in any way, but I don't think this was the right person to have."
Still, the Rev. Odessa Alma Jennings-Hardworth, pastor of Baker Street, defended the decision to have Ahmadinejad speak.
"We realize that President Ahmadinejad has made some statements which could be considered by some to be intolerant" stated Jennings-Hardworth. "Indeed, that might be true. But one must examine his overall demeanor. While Mr. Ahmadinejad is intolerant towards good things, he is also intolerant of those whom we consider intolerant in even more important matters, namely those of the far-right agenda. So we share a common intolerance of unfavorable intolerance and his intolerance of intolerance far out weights, in my opinion, his intolerance of those things tolerable. If there's one thing we cannot tolerate, it is intolerance, unless a greater intolerance exists towards those with even greater intolerance. I think our motives in having him speak, speak for themselves."