The Slatest

Ecuadorian President Explains the Lobster-in-Bed Photo That Prompted Assange’s Arrest: “It Was a Special Day”

Picture of a lobster on a boat off Robinson Crusoe Island, in the Pacific Juan Fernandez Islands, off the coast of Chile, taken on January 30, 2019. - This divers' paradise, some 700 km west of the Chilean coast and with a population of about a thousand inhabitants, has just taken a fundamental step in its conservation - by 2020 it aspires to become free of single-use plastics. (Photo by Ana FERNANDEZ / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANA FERNANDEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A lobster on a boat. Ana Fernandez/Getty Images

That Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno spent his birthday entangled in the bedsheets of a posh hotel with a tray of lobster tails at hand does not immediately seem like the type of incident that would kick off an international political intrigue.

But a photo of Moreno relaxing over room service was anonymously published online last month, just as the Ecuadorian president—who ran as a center-leftist before undoing many of his predecessor’s progressive achievements—was defending austerity measures in the country. Moreno blamed WikiLeaks for leaking the photo, along with other personal information, and last week, the group’s founder Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had lived for seven years. It was from that embassy that he directed his organization to publish the emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The extent to which the Trump campaign was involved in the acquisition of those emails will be one subject of the U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which will be released on Thursday.

Moving back to the scandal at hand, though, the BBC interviewed the Ecuadorian president on Wednesday about why a president named Lenin was eating lobster in a fancy hotel in the first place. “It was my birthday, I was watching football in bed, and it was a national holiday. It was a special day for us and nothing more,” Moreno told the network.

He also said that Assange was a cyberterrorist who spied on the staff and smeared feces on the walls. A lawyer for Assange told the network those claims were “outrageous.”