‘More than unwelcome’: 2013 candidates (and others) check the anti-Ahmadinejad box

Gillibrand and other officials, outside the U.N. (Reid Pillifant)
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Outside the United Nations this morning, dozens of New York's most reliably pro-Israel elected officials rallied to denounce the annual address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the U.N.

The event was headlined by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was touting a Senate resolution calling on the U.N. to take action against Iran, and featured a number of New York's congressmen, a couple of would-be congressmen, and five contenders for mayor in 2013, who sketched out a few areas of emphasis for any future voters who might be interested in Israel's security.

The fact that Ahmadinejad's speech, due to a scheduling coincidence, happens to fall on Yom Kippur this year was especially galling to the speakers.

"This is a man who is no different than Adolf Hitler," said Rep. Eliot Engel.

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Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in her own fiery remarks, called Ahmadinejad a "terrorist," based in part on his "repression of women and women's groups, his statement that LGBT people in his country do not exist and the fact that LGBT people in his country are, on a regular basis, murdered."

"He is more than unwelcome," she said in conclusion, "but I won't use bad words at this press conference."

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said making Ahmadinejad feel unwelcome was "just the tip of the iceberg," and touted his own efforts to crack down on companies that do business with Iran.

"Let's go farther now, let's attack at the core of the Iranian economy," he said.

He also mentioned some efforts by the administration of Andrew Cuomo, who was once de Blasio's boss, and would be an extremely valuable backer in 2013.

"We saw the dramatic investigation of the British bank Standard Chartered just a few weeks ago. It's clear that there are still Western companies not doing what their governments are asking and not cutting off Iran from its economic lifeblood," he said, adding, "Let's now put our money where our mouths are. Let's ask the companies and demand the companies of the West stop propping up this regime. Let's take it down once and for all."

Borough President Scott Stringer, the only one of the five candidates who is Jewish, called Ahmadinejad "the modern-day jackal," and used the speech to make a point about the city's diversity.

"Today he is targeting Israel, tomorrow he might target somebody else," he said. "And what makes the U.N. so appropriate for New York City, is we're all mindful that terrorism comes in so many different forms against so many different people."

John Liu said he was not happy to be there, because "this is something that we should not have to get together to denounce but we must do so."

Bill Thompson was introduced as the "past comptroller of the city of New York, and has held many other positions in public life, and still hopes to hold in public life."

He suggested a walk-out for Ahmadinejad's speech.

"Wouldn't it be good for a change when he speaks later this week…that those who value freedom, those who are against hatred in the United Nations, stand up and walk out also," he said.

Thompson lamented the fact that the group had come together in past years.

"Hopefully next year we won't have to stand here and send this message again," he said.