President Barack Obama has never met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad face to face.
But that didn't stop Merlin Miller, the 2012 presidential candidate for the right-wing, white nationalist American Third Position Party, from sitting down with Ahmadinejad in his presidential office in Tehran for almost 20 minutes last week.
Miller, who is also an independent filmmaker, was in Tehran for the first annual, government-organized New Horizon Independent Film Festival, which he describes as an opportunity for independent filmmakers who "aren't traditionally politically correct" to come together.
"He's not the person the American mainstream people portray him to be," Miller told Whispers of his meeting with Ahmadinejad, a leader widely criticized internationally. "He cares about his people. And he is interested in getting truths out about Iran."
Ahmadinejad, he said, expressed concern about the perspective Americans have on Iran because of what the filmmaker calls the country's "Zionist-controlled media." Tensions between Iran and Israel have escalated rapidly under Ahmadinejad's rule.
"But I said it should be our State Department meeting with him, not me," Miller says.
The Iranian president also reportedly talked about the "evils" of western civilization, such as sexual promiscuity, a regular target of his criticism.
Miller says he could relate to those sentiments because of years spent observing "the decadence coming out of Hollywood." The independent filmmaker is currently shopping around a film called False Flag about the USS Liberty, a ship attacked in international waters by Israeli forces 45 years ago, which some veterans say resulted in a government cover-up.
The meeting with Ahmadinejad appears to have gone well. Miller says the Iranian president gifted him a book of poems by 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, as well as an inscription which he is working to get translated.
Miller believes that "cultural bridges" were built from the meeting, but also says that he doesn't want to be a politician for long.
The filmmaker is on the ballot as the American Third Position Party candidate in Tennessee, New Jersey, and Colorado, and has write-in status in several other states. He plans to go back to full-time filmmaking after the election is over.
"Of course we're not a major candidacy," he said. "But I am trying right now to coalesce things that are needed for the American people that feel abandoned by Democrats and Republicans... I do not like seeing my country destroyed."
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