Uber chief walks back comment about murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi speaks to the media in New Delhi, India October 22, 2019. — Reuters pic
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi speaks to the media in New Delhi, India October 22, 2019. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Nov 12 — Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi apologised yesterday after he called the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in which Riyadh admitted responsibility, a “mistake.”

“There's no forgiving or forgetting what happened to Jamal Khashoggi & I was wrong to call it a 'mistake,'” Khosrowshahi tweeted yesterday morning as he walked back his remarks Sunday in an interview with Axios.

“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.”

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was strangled and dismembered at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, prompting harsh criticism of the country and de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia, through its sovereign wealth fund, is the fifth largest shareholder in the ride-hailing company, and the fund's governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, sits on its Uber's board of directors.

The Uber chief's comments caused an uproar in the United States.

“I think that government said that they made a mistake,” he said in the interview Sunday, likening the incident to a fatal crash of a self-driving Uber vehicle that killed a pedestrian in March 2018.

“I think that people make mistakes and that doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven,” Khosrowshahi said, after the Axios reporter pressed him on the comparison between an assassination and a traffic accident.

The reporter confirmed that the executive called him shortly after the interview to “express regret for the language he used” about the Khashoggi murder.

Khosrowshahi downplayed the kingdom's role in Uber, saying “they're just like any other shareholder” investing in a publicly-traded company. “And they're a big investor just like you could be a big investor.”

Uber's went public in May but the share offering has been a huge disappointment to investors, falling to US$27 (RM111) yesterday compared to the IPO price of US$42. And documents filed Friday with showed Uber's boss sold 21 per cent of his shares for some US$547 million. — AFP

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