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Journalist who threw shoes at Bush is running for office in Iraq

"This is for the widows and orphans," Muntazer Zaidi yelled at the U.S. president during a 2008 press conference.
Image: George W. Bush
Muntazer Zaidi throws a shoe at President George W. Bush during a news conference in Iraq in 2008.Evan Vucci / AP file

An Iraqi journalist who made headlines worldwide after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush is now hoping to be elected as a lawmaker.

Muntazer Zaidi, 39, told NBC News that he believed that Iraqis are "tired of politics," and pledged to imprison "thief politicians" if he wins a seat in the country's parliament later this month.

Zaidi spent about 9 months in jail following the 2008 incident. He yelled "this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," as he chucked his first piece of footwear at Bush during a news conference.

"This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," Zaidi added as he hurled his second shoe.

Bush deftly managed to dodge both of them.

"It was a size 10," the president later joked.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes after U.S. Marines toppled it to the ground following the 2003 invasion.

The incident made Zaidi a cult hero in much of the Arab world, which had been growing increasingly frustrated with U.S. policy in the Middle East following Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

Speaking by phone from Baghdad, Zaidi recounted that his time in jail was “very difficult,” alleging that he was tortured and had his nose, teeth and foot broken.

After being released from prison, Zaidi spent time living in Lebanon and Switzerland before returning to Iraq about two months ago.

His policies include changing the country's court system, supporting the rights of women, and preventing Iranian interference in Iraq.

“I will put the 'thief politicians' in jail,” he added.

Image: Nouri al-Maliki and George W. Bush
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reacts after Muntazer Zaidi threw his shoes at President George W. Bush in 2008.Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images file

Zaidi is not a member of any political party, but is part of an alliance that is supported by Shiite firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr formed the Mahdi Army in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Shiite militia battled American troops after the U.S. invasion.

The Mahdi Army was also blamed for the mass killings of Sunni civilians in sectarian violence in Iraq that peaked in 2006 and 2007.

His fighters are today known as the Peace Brigades and they battled Islamic State militants until late last year.

Nearly 7,000 candidates will vie for 329 seats in Parliament in the May 12 elections.