Channel 4 has defended its invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deliver its alternative Christmas message.
In his speech, Mr Ahmadinejad claimed society faced a range of moral, political and security crises.
The invitation provoked outrage. The Foreign Office said the Christmas Day broadcast would cause international offence; Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor called it “an unprecedented scandal”; and the Board of Deputies said it was “an affront to decency”.
An alternative to the Queen’s message has been shown on C4 since 1993. Previous guests have included Sharon Osbourne and the parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
Speaking in Farsi, with Channel 4’s English translation, Mr Ahmadinejad said: “All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets.
“If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.”
Mr Prosor said: “Everyone knows that Ahmadinejad is a danger to the existence of Israel and world peace but in an absurd way, Channel 4 allows him to hoodwink public opinion with empty words of Iran’s desire for peace and reconciliation.
“I wonder whether the channel would have also hosted Hitler?”
Board of Deputies president Henry Grunwald said: “To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust.”
The Foreign Office said the invitation would have caused “offence and bemusement not just at home but among friendly countries abroad”.
The Channel 4 spokesman said Mr Ahmadinejad’s record, including his anti-Israel, anti-homosexual, and anti-Christian rhetoric, had been covered in the brief information film which was screened preceding his message.
He added: “We have devoted more airtime to examining Iran and its position in the world than any other broadcaster. The message offered viewers an insight into a different world perspective at an important time in relations between Iran and the West.”