Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow was under fire last night on social media for describing former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz as “a nice guy”.
Aziz, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for the persecution of Shiites, died in hospital in the city of Nasiriyah after a heart attack in prison.
He was a loyal defender of Saddam Hussein and a senior member of the regime until it was toppled by the second Gulf War.
Snow, who interviewed Aziz several times, provoked fury when he posted on his Twitter account after learning of the death: “Nice guy in a nasty situation - made no better by Bush/BLair's Shock and Awe.”
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
His remarks were described as an “insult” to the memory of the many thousands of people killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“Apparently propping up a genocidal dictator for 24 years doesn't preclude "nice guy" status,” was just one of the remarks posted on Twitter in response to Snow’s comment.
The BBC’s John Sweeny joined the row when he posted: “He was a thug in thug's clothing.”
However, Snow shrugged off criticsm, telling The Independent he stood by his description of Aziz as a nice guy: “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.”
Asked if being part of a murderous regime was not a reason for condemning Aziz the broadcaster said: “I just described him as a nice guy. It’s an absolute tragic morass in which everybody has behave 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.”