Amid mounting criticism for posing for a photograph with a student dressed up as a suicide bomber, the president of a prominent American university has at last issued a public apology regarding the incident.
As The Jerusalem Post first reported on Sunday, University of Pennsylvania president. Amy Gutmann was photographed last week standing alongside Syrian-born engineering student Saad Saadi at the annual Halloween costume party held at the president's home.
In the photo, a copy of which was obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Saadi is seen with a keffiyeh around his head, a toy Kalashnikov rifle in his hand and six plastic sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest. A smiling Gutmann stood next to him, dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, a character from L. Frank Baum's novel The Wizard of Oz.
In a statement released by her office on Friday, Gutmann sought to distance herself from the incident by portraying it as an innocent mistake on her part. She asserted that students had crowded around her "to have their picture taken with me in costume," and that Saadi was photographed with her "before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber."
Nonetheless, in Friday's statement, she expressed no regret for the offense caused by the incident.
But in "a letter to the university community" that was posted yesterday on the college's Web site, Gutmann appeared to change tack, acknowledging that "the photograph is embarrassing for the university and me alike."
While still insisting that she did not realize the "full extent of his costume" until after the photograph had been taken, she did offer a more explicit expression of remorse.
"The student has since apologized, and I accept his apology," she said. "I too apologize for the offense this photo has caused."
In addition, Gutmann said that some have "mistakenly interpreted the photograph as my support for terrorism. Nothing could be further from the truth. I abhor terrorism, suicide bombers and everything they do. My record is unabashedly clear on this point."