Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow has been criticised after describing former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz as a “nice guy”.
Aziz, close ally of dictator Saddam Hussein, died yesterday in hospital in the city of Nasiriyah after suffering a heart attack in prison. He had had been sentenced to death in 2010 for persecuting Shiite Muslims during Saddam’s reign.
He achieved notoriety for staunchly defending Hussein to world’s media during three wars, and was the highest ranking Christian inside the regime.
Snow, who had previously interviewed Aziz, provoked fury on social media when he tweeted:
Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz has died in jail: Nice guy in a nasty situation – made no better by Bush/BLair’s Shock and Awe
— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) June 5, 2015
I spent time with Tariq Aziz, interviewed him often..Christian that he was – they didn’t kill him, they just let him rot to death in jail — Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) June 5, 2015
Snow’s remarks were condemned by many users:
Apparently propping up a genocidal dictator for 24 years doesn’t preclude “nice guy” status. https://t.co/2q6gn6oPYA
— Sam Freedman (@Samfr) June 5, 2015
@jonsnowC4 do you really think he was a nice guy? He was a Ba’athist through and through who represented a murderous regime.
— Youssef Taha (@Youssef_Taha) June 5, 2015
@jonsnowC4 is this serious? I thought this must have come from a parody account.
— adrian mcmenamin (@adrianmcmenamin) June 5, 2015
— Dukesy (@dukesy12) June 5, 2015
BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney also joined in, tweeting that Aziz was a “thug in thug’s clothing”:
However, Snow defended his comments, telling The Independent that Aziz had been singled out by the West: “I can only say I interviewed him and got to know him quite well.
“I think he was made the fall guy by the West. It’s a long time ago. He’s been in prison for a long time. There were plenty of people who needed to go to prison in that regime. He was one of the only ones who were picked off.”
When asked if being part of a brutal dictatorship was not a good enough reason to condemn Aziz, Snow responded: “I just described him as a nice guy. It’s an absolute tragic morass in which everybody has behaved badly. What was the idea of going in and smashing that place? It meant Christians couldn’t stay. It meant Jews couldn’t stay. He was picked off because he was a Christian. It’s all tricky stuff – so complicated.”