CB: "Even though you don't approve of his method, everybody here can relate to his message."
Campbell Brown speaks to Ed Henry (at the White House) and to Michael. Ed speculates that future press conferences may include not just magnetometers but a media shoe-removal as well! (And hey, better collect those BlackBerrys, those could do some serious damage!) Michael goes over the cultural issues in the gesture and why whether Iraqis agree with what the man did or not, they understand his anger and believe he should not be prosecuted.
CAMPBELL BROWN: Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr staged an angry protest today in Baghdad over the arrest of the Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference on Sunday.
President Bush tried to brush it off. But the video of the leader of the free world getting pelted with a pair of shoes, well, it kind of ricocheted around the globe today. This as Iraqi government officials said that the journalist who threw the shoes is being tested for drugs or alcohol. He could face charges of assaulting the Iraqi prime minister who was standing right next to President Bush. But is the story bigger than it seemed at first. In the Muslim world after all, the shoe thrower has become a modern day hero.
And joining me now to talk about this, Ed Henry at the White House, Michael Ware for us who is in Baghdad tonight.
Ed, let me start with you. First of all, walk us through what happened. I mean, we've all seen the video obviously. The president's reflexes in a way though seem faster to some than the Secret Service. Are they reviewing this incident?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, they are taking a look at it. If nothing else, when you look at that video, it's clear that the lead Secret Service agent -- who is supposed to dive on the president in, God forbid, some bad situation like this -- didn't react after the first shoe.
You know, it's understandable he didn't see the first shoe coming, but he didn't actually go until after the second shoe. It took two full shoes before that agent really run towards the president, who said, look, back off, I'm fine.
I've been in a lot of these press conferences. They have what they call a hand mag, where they wand you beforehand to make sure you don't have a gun or a knife. But it's an imperfect system. You've been through this. You know, Campbell, you could have your keys. You could have a digital tape recorder. You could have your BlackBerry. You could obviously have your shoes. You can take them off and throw them. Nobody's really thought to do that before. But now, I have to wonder whether they're going to start doing it because we've taken our shoes off at the airport. Maybe before presidential press conferences, that's what we're going to be doing pretty soon too. It's going to be just as annoying.
BROWN: Can you imagine, Ed?
Michael, let me go to you. In the Arab world, it is incredibly derogatory to throw your shoe at someone. It does mean a lot, doesn't it?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, Campbell. I mean, it is the height of insult.
I mean, here in Iraq and in the region just showing someone the sole of your shoe is an enormous mark of disrespect. But to actually throw your shoe is egregious. Now, we've seen this in the past, for example, after the invasion. Do you remember when the statue came down?
WARE: And all the Iraqis leapt upon it. And they hammered it with their shoes. That's the level of loathing. That's the anger. That's the disrespect we're talking about.
And this action by just one angry Iraqi journalist has resonated throughout this entire region, Campbell.
BROWN: And, Ed, you know, President Bush, I think to his credit, really seemed to shrug it off, right?
HENRY: Sure. And I mean, he tried to tell reporters afterwards, look, this is just one guy. He's speaking for himself. You can't read too much into it.
But as Michael is reporting on the ground there in Iraq, it certainly looks like it's not just one person. It's resonating. Nevertheless, the president did try to downplay it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But let me talk about the guy throwing the shoe. It is one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. That's what happens in free societies where people try to draw attention to themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: And so you can see right there, I mean, clearly the president trying to turn this politically to say, look, there's now freedom in Iraq, so the guy's ability to do that. But on the other hand, this is not the storyline the White House wanted.
HENRY: This could have actually been a positive trip for him because security has improved on the ground. Instead, this is overshadowing everything.
BROWN: Completely. And Michael, a much stronger reaction to the incident in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world even. And a lot of support for this journalist.
WARE: Oh, absolutely, Campbell. I mean, in so many ways, he has expressed the sentiment of a lot of Iraqis. Iraqi local opinion here is divided now, and it's almost straight down the middle.
There's one body of opinion that condemns what he did. But not because they assaulted -- he assaulted President Bush, but because he did it in front of the Iraqi prime minister. And that's embarrassing to the Iraqi prime minister so it's not polite. The other body of opinion which is just as big says that President Bush deserved what he got.
It seems to be agreed here in Iraq, by and large, that this journalist shouldn't be punished for this. And that even though you don't approve of his method, everybody here can relate to his message, Campbell.
BROWN: And the frustration that they're feeling there.
BROWN: Ed and Michael, appreciate it. Thanks very much for your time tonight.