A photo showing President Obama holding a baseball bat signed by Hank Aaron while talking wtih Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan has drawn sharp criticism in Turkey. (White House Photo)
WASHINGTON -- Whoever thought a baseball bat would cause a diplomatic flap?
Lawmakers in Turkey are criticizing President Obama over a recent White House photo showing him on the phone with Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan while holding a baseball bat.
"The photo reveals from whom our prime minister receives orders to rule the country," said Metin Lutfi Baydar, a lawmaker with Turkey's main opposition party to Erdogan.
Another opposition member, Umut Oran, called the photo "an implicit insult to Turkey and its citizens."
Erdogan dismissed the entire flap, calling Obama "a friend who never falls short of respect or politeness."
(It's not just any bat, by the way; it's been autographed by former home run champion Henry Aaron.)
The White House was concerned enough about the criticism to issue a statement about the photo:
"We released the photo with only one purpose in mind, to highlight the President's continuing close relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan and draw attention to the important conversation they had about the worsening situation in Syria.
The President values his friendship and close partnership with Prime Minister Erdogan on a range of important issues on which the United States cooperates with Turkey."