Biden: I Told Prince He's to Blame for Khashoggi's Death

Saudi ruler claimed he's not personally responsible, president says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2022 5:40 PM CDT
Biden: I Told Prince He's to Blame for Khashoggi's Death
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks at his notes as he meets with President Biden on Friday in Jeddah.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – Under pressure after agreeing to meet with the leader of Saudi Arabia, President Biden said Friday that he told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman behind closed doors that he blames him for the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. "He basically said that he was not personally responsible" for the killing, Biden told reporters after the meeting in Jeddah, the New York Times reports. "I indicated that I thought he was." American intelligence officials have determined that Saudi operatives killed the writer for the Washington Post in Istanbul in 2018.

Biden, who told reporters the slaying was "outrageous," said he brought the issue up at the beginning of the meeting, per CNBC. "I said very straightforwardly for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am," the president said. Asked how he could be certain Saudi Arabia wouldn't murder someone else as it had Khashoggi, Biden called it a silly question. "How could I possibly be sure of any of that?" the president asked. "I just made it clear if anything occurs like that again, they'll get that response and much more."

Biden's decision to fist bump bin Salman when they met outside the palace before the meeting brought criticism. It was "worse than a handshake—it was shameful," Fred Ryan, the Post's publisher, said in a statement. "It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking." Hatice Cengiz, who was engaged to Khashoggi at the time of his death, tweeted a photo of the greeting from his account. "Hey @POTUS. Is this the accountability you promised for my murder," the message said. Asked about the tweet, Biden said, "I'm sorry she feels that way." (Read more President Biden stories.)

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