Laura Ingraham’s joke wasn’t far off the mark. The Times editorial board didn’t ask him to lunch at the Four Seasons; he asked the equivalent of the Times editorial board to dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel. And most of them seem to have accepted, of course. Here’s the first account of the event I’ve seen, from Time’s managing editor, Richard Stengel:

The invitation was on creamy stationery with fancy calligraphy: The Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran “requests the pleasure” of my company to dine with H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The dinner is at the Intercontinental Hotel — with names carefully written out at all the place settings around a rectangular table. There are about 50 of us, academics and journalists mostly. There’s Brian Williams across the room, and Christiane Amanpour a few seats down. And at a little after 8pm, on a day when he has already addressed the U.N., the evening after his confrontation at Columbia, a bowing and smiling Mahmoud Admadinejad glides into the room…

The format of the evening is curious. In his calm and fluent voice — “dear friends,” he calls us — he requests that we not ask questions, but make statements, so that he can react to them in a form of dialogue. The academics are not shy. They make statements not only about the need for dialogue and reconciliation, but castigate the Iranian government for chilling press freedoms and for arresting Iranian-American scholars who were only trying to foster better relations between America and Iran. Throughout, Ahmadinejad is courtly, preternaturally calm, and fiercely articulate.

After an hour, he is ready to respond. He does so first with a half-hour ode to the relationship between man and God that might have been dictated by the Iranian poet Rumi. “I believe that Almighty God created the universe for mankind. Man is God’s most important creation and it is through him that we appreciate the beauties of the universe. God has sent man here on a mission.” That mission, he says, is to pursue love, justice, kindness and dignity. In fact, he repeats those works [sic] so often that it begins to sound like a mantra: Love. Justice. Kindness. Dignity.

Follow the link for Ahmadinejad’s review of “300”. Exit question: Who else was on the guest list for this abortion? And how many of them were invited but turned it down out of polite objection to a Holocaust-denying fascist with American blood on his hands?

Update: Karnit Goldwasser, wife of one of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah last year in the incident that instigated the summer war, snuck into Ahmadinejad’s press conference yesterday and accused him of complicity in the act. Love, justice, dignity, and kindness compelled him to ignore the question and pretend like she wasn’t there. Here’s the money part, though. How many of these turds were at dinner last night?

“He came in and started to smile at everyone. The reporters gave him great respect… As he walked by me he said hi to me, because he still didn’t know who I was. He thought I was one of the supporting journalists, and that he was walking into a place where everyone loved him. He seemed very pleased,” Goldwasser recounted.

Update: Via HuffPo, how Ahmadinejad suckered the U.S. media.