The photo of a newly confirmed U.S. ambassador posing with a Syrian student dressed as a terrorist is raising questions.
Amy Gutman stepped down as University of Pennsylvania President after she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate February 8 to be the country’s Ambassador to Germany.
Shortly after the announcement of her confirmation, a 2006 photo resurfaced on a Twitter post showing her next to a student dressed as a terrorist. A Jerusaleum Post report from Novermber 2006 included the photo and identified the student attending the annual Halloween costume party held at the president’s home as as Syrian-born engineering student Saad Saadi.
“Part of the Halloween party tradition is the opportunity to be photographed with the President,” Gutman said in an open letter to the UPenn community at the time. “This year, one student holding a toy gun was photographed with me before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber. As soon as I realized the full extent of his costume, I refused his request for additional photographs.”
“Some have mistakenly interpreted the photograph as my support for terrorism,” she added, saying nothing could be further from the truth. “I abhor terrorism, suicide bombers and everything they do.”
In the photo, Saadi appears with a keffiyeh around his head, with a plastic Kalashnikov rifle in his hand and plastic sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest.
“It’s sending a message of moral equivalency,” said Winfield Myers, a Penn student at the time. “I understand that everyone makes social foibles, but this goes well beyond this. Had a student walked in wearing a KKK robe or dressed as an SS officer, would [Gutmann] have taken the picture? I think not.”
Gutman will be ambassador to the Germany her father fled from after Nazis exerted control of that country.
“To go to the country that my father had to flee and to go as the U.S. ambassador is just historically meaningful,” she reportedly said, “not just to me, but it shows what an alliance — what the U.S. working with Germany was able to accomplish over a time period — that sadly my father never got to live to see.”
Penn announced in October a new data science building being built would be named for Gutmann, a decision reportedly made after consultation with Harlan M. Stone, a Penn trustee who made a $25 million donation for the building’s construction. Gutman will reportedly remain a tenured member of the faculty who has stepped away for a sabbatical.
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