The CEO of ride-sharing company Uber has backtracked on his recent comments in which he referred to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia as a “serious mistake.” Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is Uber’s fifth-largest shareholder.
The Verge reports that in an interview with Axios on HBO, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi referred to the murder of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia as a “serious mistake” and compared the incident to a death caused by an Uber self-driving car. Khosrowshahi reportedly added: “People make mistakes, it doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven.”
Later, Khosrowshahi backtracked on his comments, telling Axios that he had misspoken. Khosrowshahi said in a statement: “I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”
Khosrowshahi further tweeted his comments, condemning the murder of Khashoggi:
There's no forgiving or forgetting what happened to Jamal Khashoggi & I was wrong to call it a “mistake.” As I told @danprimack after our interview, I said something in the moment I don't believe. Our investors have long known my views here & I'm sorry I wasn’t as clear on Axios https://t.co/RxapzktrXq
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) November 11, 2019
Khosrowshahi was being questioned about Uber’s relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia when he made the comments. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is the fifth-largest shareholder in Uber and the head of the fund, Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan, sits on Uber’s board. Khosrowshahi praised Al-Rumayyan in the interview as a “very constructive board member” and said that his input was “greatly” valued.
Uber was one of a group of companies that pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s annual investment conference in protest of the murder of Khashoggi in 2018. The move was extremely controversial in the Persian Gulf and the government minister of Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, called on citizens to delete the Uber app from their phones and “boycott anyone who boycotts Saudi Arabia.”
Khosrowshahi stated that he did not attend this year’s Saudi investment conference due to a scheduling conflict. When asked if he would have attended the conference if he did not have conflicting arrangements, Khosrowshahi stated that he “didn’t know.”