Uber CEO calls Jamal Khashoggi's murder "mistake", apologizes after outrage
Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered last year, inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. His murder, allegedly ordered by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, sparked outrage and showed dissenting voices are shut. But for Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, the ghastly crime was nothing more than a "mistake". His comments sparked outrage, and following the script, Khosrowshahi expressed regret. Here's what went down.
Khosrowshahi made the initial remarks on Axios. Causing disgust across the world, he compared Khashoggi's murder (the journalist was dismembered) to the demise of a pedestrian hit by one of the company's autonomous vehicles. "It's a serious mistake. We've made mistakes too, with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we're recovering from that mistake," he reportedly said. He also reminded Saudi apologized.
Soon after Khosrowshahi's comments saw the light of the day, people on the Internet slammed him. #BoycottUber remained a top trend on Twitter on Monday. It was only after outrage that the CEO issued an apology. "I said something in the moment that I don't believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and shouldn't be forgotten or excused," he said.
Khosrowshahi's soft stand on MbS has to do with money, something which was bound to be noticed. Riyadh's sovereign wealth fund, known as The Public Investment Fund, holds $1.9 billion worth of Uber stock, making it the fifth-largest stakeholder in the company. The company's managing director Yasir Al-Rumayyan is a member of Uber's board. In fact, Khosrowshahi also praised Rumayyan and said he "valued his input".
This latest episode further confirms money and power trumps everything else, and Khashoggi has been let down by many in the past. After his murder, US President Donald Trump failed to take any tough stand in order to not miff the Kingdom. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also took a soft route after initially saying the killers would be brought to justice.
Apart from rights activists, one of the few powerful ones who have stood by Khashoggi is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, probably because WaPo is owned by him. Last month, Bezos attended Khashoggi's memorial service, hugged his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and comforted her by saying no one should have to endure such pain. She was waiting outside the consulate for Khashoggi, but he never returned.
To note, MbS, who has been largely given a free pass, took "responsibility" for the murder but contested that he had no idea about it. "It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch," he said in an interview. But, United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard in a report claimed there's enough evidence to prove MbS' role.