University president Lee Bollinger made it clear he will not join the students, following an incorrect report in Fox News, which later issued a correction. Before Fox News corrected the report, the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) sent a warning letter to the university, stating that “Columbia's plan to host a banquet for visiting Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs afoul of U.S. anti-terror laws and will subject the university and its officials to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Israel or elsewhere.”
The university stated, “At no time has there ever been any university event planned or considered involving the president of Iran, nor has there ever been any plan for a dinner involving the Iranian president and President Bollinger.”
Bollinger previously has termed Ahmadinejad a "petty and cruel dictator.”
The university’s Spectator reported that 15 students of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association were invited to a dinner with Ahmadinejad Wednesday. Three days later, Fox News incorrectly reported that Bollinger would be joining the students at the dinner. Members emphasize that the dinner itself is also still tentative.
The University has issued a statement denying any involvement in the dinner, and adding that the news stories “fundamentally misstate the University’s role in this unconfirmed possible encounter. Simply put, there never was one. In fact, at no time has there ever been any university event planned or considered involving the president of Iran, nor has there ever been any plan for a dinner involving the Iranian president and President Bollinger.”
Four years ago, Columbia’s World Leaders Forum invited Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. Bollinger refused to cancel the event but introduced the Iranian president as a “petty and cruel dictator.”
This year’s visit will be protested by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which has not given up on pressuring Columbia to cancel the dinner between Ahmadinejad and students.
Mark Wallace, former American Ambassador to the United Nations and president of UANI, said that hosting Ahmadinejad is an insult to residents of New York and charged that an Iranian-affiliated organization funds research projects at Columbia as well as Rutgers universities.