Hariri interview: Odd moments and social media reactions

Hariri interview: Odd moments and social media reactions
A TV appearance by Lebanon's PM Saad al-Hariri on Sunday - thought to be under house arrest in Riyadh - was filled with bizarre moments supporting the detention theory.
3 min read
Hariri appeared tired, scared, and broken during the bizarre interview [Twitter]

TV appearance by Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri - who is believed to be under house arrest in Riyadh despite his denial - was filled with bizarre moments supporting the theory he is being detained by Saudi authorities.

When Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia last weekend, it stunned his country and created a mystery that lasted for more than a week.

The 4 November resignation triggered a political crisis in Lebanon, along with rumors about whether Hariri was under house arrest or being coerced to quit.

Although he met with various ambassadors in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in the days that followed, no one in Lebanon was really sure what was happening to him.

A much-awaited live interview was broadcasted with Hariri on Sunday night by Future TV, a channel associated with his political party. It sought to dispel those rumours, but also raised some new questions.

The man in the back of the room

At one point during the interview, Hariri's eyes were wide open, moving to the back of the room. The camera caught a man in the back corner, behind the interviewer, who was holding what appeared to be a rolled paper.

The man, whose face was outside the frame, soon disappeared but not before the camera moved back to Hariri. He appeared to be staring toward him with an angry and disgusted look on his face. On Twitter, some Lebanese shared clips of the video and wondered if the man in the back had some kind of message for Hariri, fueling reports that the prime minister was being held against his will.

Hariri and the interviewer, Paula Yacoubian, realised the moment was caught on camera. Hariri claimed after the break that the man was one of his staff, telling him of the latest developments in Lebanon.

Tired and near tears

After the belligerent resignation speech, Hariri looked sad and tired on Sunday, at times holding back tears in the interview that went on for over an hour. He repeatedly drank water, finishing his glass and asking for more, prompting Yacoubian to hand him her own glass of water.

He pleaded with her to finish the questioning after an hour has passed. "You made me tired," he said. He repeatedly said he was ready to die for Lebanon - his father, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005 - but he added that he didn't want his children to go through that kind of ordeal.

When asked about reports that he is not communicative and doesn't use his phone much, he said: "I am in a reflective state," adding that he didn't want any distractions amid a very busy schedule. His demeanor triggered a new hashtag, #UnderPressure, reflecting that people were unconvinced he was a free man.

Keeping it real

The Future TV channel had asked its viewers to share questions for Hariri under the hashtag #AskthePM in an attempt to dispel reports that the interview was pre-recorded. "I would never say it was live, if it was a recorded episode," Yacoubian said near the end of the interview. Throughout the interview, Yacoubian went to great lengths to prove the interview was live.

She first read the time from her phone and then reported to Hariri developments in Lebanon, including protests. She also read a UK Foreign Office statement on air.

Then, when an earthquake was reported in Iraq and Iran, she referenced it, telling Hariri it was to make sure people believed the interview was live.