LONDON: Former television presenter George Kordahi is back under the spotlight but his appointment as Lebanon’s new information minister has stirred controversy given his questionable opinions on matters ranging from Syrian President Bashar Assad to his views on harassment in the workplace.
Well-known and highly popular among a large segment of the Lebanese population, the 71-year-old Kordahi rose to fame when he hosted the pan-Arab version of “Who Wants to be Millionaire?” for several years.
His controversial political opinions might not have mattered then, but they sure do matter now that he is a member of Lebanon’s newly appointed government.
Despite his denial of some of the statements after his appointment as minister of information, here is a rundown of many instances where Kordahi caused controversy on live TV.
1. Praising Syrian President Bashar Assad
Describing him as the 2018 Personality of the Year, Kordahi has always spoken highly of Assad stressing that his steadfastness and perseverance are what rescued not only Syria but also Lebanon and the Gulf.
In many instances, Kordahi did not apologize for his opinion about the Syrian president who has perpetrated a war against his own people since 2011, carried out chemical attacks on civilians, and forcefully displaced thousands of innocent people.
2. Supporting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
Kordahi expressed his admiration of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on live television calling his work regarding the Palestinian resistance ‘heroic.’ Kordahi went on to say that, despite their different religions, Nasrallah is his ‘flesh and blood.’
3. Condoning harassment in the workplace
Kordahi’s opinion on harassment against women in the workplace was revealed during a well-known entertainment talk show in Lebanon hosted by Carla Haddad in which various hot topics were discussed, including a segment where the host asked her male guests what they would do if they were women.
4. Placing a gag order on media in Lebanon
On his first day as minister of information, Kordahi slapped an informal gag order on the media in Lebanon, asking them not to host analysts critical of the new government.
Kordahi affirmed his decision during his first formal speech as minister of information at the Presidential residence in Baabda. Speaking in a patronizing, yet mocking, manner, Kordahi asked media organizations to “calm down a little."
5. Forgetting it was actually President Aoun who said ‘Lebanon is going to hell’
In his first informal speech, Kordahi said that people should stop dragging Lebanon down to hell and that if they want to, they can go there by themselves.
In Sept. 2020, Lebanon President Michel Aoun said in a press conference that “Lebanon is going to hell, of course” when he was asked about where the country was heading given the numerous crises it was facing.
6. Meeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei
After his appointment, an image of Kordahi warmly greeting Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, was widely circulated on social media. The picture was from 2015 when Kordahi reportedly visited Iran to discuss various issues with Khamenei, including the situation in Syria and the Arab Spring. Kordahi said after his visit that Khamenei’s handshake reminded him of his handshake with Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.