The mayor of Turkey’s capital of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, who last week was under fire for luring a group of Western journalists to Turkey, claimed the reporters were disturbed by his remarks and questions about the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
After promising journalists an interview with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and spy chief Hakan Fidan, Gökçek told journalists the official narrative on the failed coup attempt of July 15 as well as his conspiracy theories on the US, Israel and ISIL.
“I told them that ISIL was founded by Obama and the CIA, and that Trump says that, too,” Gökçek stated on Habertürk TV on Saturday night. “Does the president of the US lie?” Gökçek added, saying that he challenged the reporters with a question on ISIL: “How do you explain that ISIL kills only Muslims but does not drop a bomb on Israel?”
A group of journalists from such outlets as The New York Times, Huffington Post and The Associated Press reported last week that Gökçek lured them to Ankara and offered them a meeting followed by a lavish dinner in which he only told about his conspiracy theories.
New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris wrote the following on March 13: “It didn’t help that Mr. Gokcek delivered a blistering anti-Semitic and anti-American harangue about the trauma of the coup attempt and Western prejudice against Turkey. (He also accused the United States and Israel of causing Turkey’s most devastating earthquakes.)”
Gökçek on the other hand claimed on Turkish TV that the reporters showed no sensitivity even to the bloodiest footage from the failed coup attempt of July 15.
When asked why he deceived the journalists, Gökçek said the following, as Harris reported: “… Mr. Gokcek said disabusing the Western media of ‘some prejudices against us’ was a worthy task. ‘I’m just trying to help you here, and I will continue to do so,’ he added.”
Gökçek is known for his appetite for sensation and for spending hours on Twitter in arguments with critics of the government.
Last week, Gökçek shared a story on his official Twitter account claiming that President Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın works for the CIA. Many argued that Gökçek, who aimed to harm Kalın due to their disagreements, confused Twitter accounts while trying to post it with an anonymous name.
In a damage control message, Gökçek soon claimed that he meant to send black propaganda material to Kalın via direct message.