Author Salman Rushdie stabbed in the neck while on lecture stage in New York, police say

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Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was stabbed Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York, authorities said. Rushdie “suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital,” state police said in a statement.

The suspect was taken into custody by a state trooper assigned to the event, police said.   

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin attacking Rushdie as he was being introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained.

Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. Joshua Goodman / AP

Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. 

Rushdie was in surgery Friday afternoon, his agent confirmed to CBS News, but his condition was not immediately known.  

Police said that the suspect also attacked an interviewer, who suffered a minor head injury. 

Video said to be of the aftermath of the attack was posted on social media.

Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.  

“Our thoughts are with Salman & his loved ones following this horrific event,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted after the attack.

Rushdie was at the event to discuss “the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the Chautauqua Institution.

“We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time,” a Chautauqua Institution spokesperson told Reuters.  

Video posted to Twitter appeared to show Rushdie being taken to a medical helicopter.

Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million. 

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward. That year, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about his experience living under the fatwa.

Author Salman Rushdie at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Oct. 12, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.  Hannelore Foerster / Getty Images

In 2015, Rushdie addressed the killings of 12 people at the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying the right to free speech is absolute or else it isn’t free.

“Both John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela use the same three-word phrase which in my mind says it all, which is, ‘Freedom is Indivisible,'” he said. “You can’t slice it up, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You can dislike Charlie Hebdo. … But the fact that you dislike them has nothing to do with their right to speak.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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