Two sources told CNN that the spot where famed author Salman Rushdie – whose controversial work has threatened death – was stabbed Friday, defying previous recommendations to tighten security measures.
New York State Police said Friday that Rushdie, 75, was stabbed at least twice on stage before lecturing at the Chautauqua Institute. A Pennsylvania police officer said he was taken to a hospital in northwestern Pennsylvania and underwent surgery.
Later in the day, Rushdie was put on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wyllie told The New York Times. He’ll probably lose an eye, Wylie said. “The nerves in his arm were broken, and his liver was stabbed and damaged. The news is not good.”
State police said a suspect was taken into custody shortly after and officials were working to ascertain the motive and the charges.
Following the attack, questions were raised about security precautions — or lack thereof — at the host institution, which sits in a rural lake resort about 70 miles south of Buffalo, New York.
According to two sources who spoke with CNN, the organization’s leadership had rejected recommendations for basic security measures, including bag checks and metal detectors, for fear that there would be a split between speakers and the audience. Sources said the leadership was also apprehensive that this would change the culture of the institute.
Two sources have direct knowledge of the security situation and previous recommendations at the Chautauqua Institute and spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
It was not clear whether the attack on Rushdie could have been prevented by the measures recommended based on information released about the incident as of Friday evening. Officials have not disclosed the type of weapon used in the attack.
A person who witnessed the incident told CNN that there were no security searches or metal detectors in the incident. The witness is not being identified as he has expressed concern for his personal safety.
CNN reached out to the Chautauqua Institute and its leadership for comment, but did not receive a response Friday.
The organization’s president, Michael Hill, defended his organization’s security plans during a news conference on Friday when asked whether more precautions would be taken in future incidents.
Hill said, “We do an assessment for every incident to determine what we think is an appropriate security level, and it was certainly one we considered important, which is why we had a State Trooper and Sheriff’s presence.” Was.” “We will assess for each incident at the institution what we believe is an appropriate level of security and this is an ongoing process that we work on with local law enforcement.”
Police said one of the injured Friday was Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum, who was about to join Rushdie in a discussion. He was taken to the hospital and treated for a facial injury and released.
Rushdie’s writings have garnered numerous literary awards, including the Booker Prize for his 1981 book, Midnight’s Children. But it was his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses”, that garnered the greatest scrutiny, as some Muslims found the book sacred, and its publication in 1988 sparked public outcry.
The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called the book an insult to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, issued a religious decree or fatwa in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.