The man, set to interview Salman Rushdie in New York state moments before the attack on the famous novelist, said on Sunday that he initially thought someone was playing a cruel joke, but was shocked by reality when he saw blood.
Henry Reese, president of the non-profit group City of Asylum, was also injured when an assailant attacked the stage of a literary event on Friday and stabbed Rushdie in the neck and stomach; He said it took several moments to understand what was happening.
“It was very difficult to understand. It looked like a kind of bad prank and it didn’t make sense to reality,” Reese, 73, told CNN.
“Then when there was blood behind it, it became real.”
Reese, who appeared on the network on Sunday with a large bandage over his bruised and swollen right eye, declined to discuss the attack specifically.
But he said when a man ran on stage he thought the incident was a “bad reference” to a religious decree that Iran’s leaders had issued asking Muslims to kill Rushdie, and “not that it was a real It was an attack.”
The suspected attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was slammed to the ground by staff and other members of the audience before being taken into police custody.
Rushdie spent several years under police protection after Iranian leaders called for his assassination over the depiction of Islam and the prophet Mohammed in his novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Reese said he was about to discuss with Rushdie the City of Asylum movement, which seeks to protect freedom of expression and which Reese started in 1997 after hearing an inspirational Rushdie speech.
Reese said, “It is grossly ironic – or perhaps intended – to attack not only his body, but everything that he represented.”
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