NYT columnist gets Twitter-skewered after defending his honeyed flattery of Saudi Arabia (VIDEO)
Friedman gave an unapologetic, jaw-dropping response when asked by CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday if, in light of the alleged Saudi-sanctioned murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he was too hasty in praising Mohammed bin Salman as a visionary reformer.
Prefacing his defiant rebuttal with a laundry list of Salman's magnificent 19th century reforms – including allowing women to drive and opening the country to Western cinemas and concerts – Friedman insisted that he saw great potential in Saudi Arabia and its leader – despite its penchant for executing wizards and bombing Yemen.
"Now, some people said, 'You know what, Tom, it's all a fake. Look what he's doing in Yemen, look at the people he's arresting.' And my attitude was: 'Maybe.' There's clearly a downside here, there's clearly an upside, and I thought it was worth investing a little hope in the upside if we could curb the downside. And so I basically spent the last nine months writing columns saying 'It's got a big upside, but a big downside.'"
Friedman ended his labyrinthine defense with an obligatory criticism of US President Donald Trump, who apparently is to blame for "not talking to this kid" – presumably Salman – about "curbing the downside."
The columnist's impressive mental gymnastics earned him scorn from across the Twittersphere, with short-but-sweet one-liners competing with comprehensive knockouts.
Glenn Greenwald noted Friedman’s other notable television performance – when he offered up a passionate and bizarre defense of the invasion of Iraq.
What does it say about the US that the most influential Foreign Policy commentator is (a) a gullible, easily duped idiot; (b) a fanatical supporter of bloodshed and wars; and (c) the author of one of the most repulsive 3 minutes ever broadcast on TV? https://t.co/0KYYmBsT98https://t.co/wrrht2NU17— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 18, 2018
Other journalists mocked Friedman's suggestion that tolerating cinema enthusiasts somehow offsets the Crown Prince's catastrophic invasion of Yemen.
Thomas Friedman: War on Yemen a downside of MBS but the upside is he screened a movie in Riyadh https://t.co/LauLHiWAjM— Eoin Hauntins 🏚️👻 (@EoinHiggins_) October 18, 2018
Did you then ask him if he acknowledges his mistake in elevating the importance of those five cosmetic "reforms" above the very real war crimes he is responsible for?— Teymoor Nabili (@teymoornabili) October 19, 2018
Middle East analyst Timoth E. Kaldas devoted a devastating Twitter thread to the exchange between Amanpour and Friedman, ultimately concluding that "After 20 minutes of spin and blaming everyone else but himself for his obvious mistake, Tom closed without an apology for his obvious error. No one should take this guy seriously and virtually every serious Middle East analyst agrees on that."
After 20 minutes of spin and blaming everyone else but himself for his obvious mistake, Tom closed without an apology for his obvious error. No one should take this guy seriously and virtually every serious Middle East analyst agrees on that— Timothy E Kaldas (@tekaldas) October 18, 2018
The New York Times' self-styled thought leader was also criticized for attempting to frame his flowery words about Salman as some sort of appeal to common humanity. His sycophancy likely had the opposite effect, professor and commentator Max Abrahms mused, noting that Friedman and other Saudi cheerleaders may have given Salman a false sense of immunity to public criticism, implanting the belief that he could get away with murder – literally.
"You've got to wonder how much the media fawning over MBS gave him a false sense of security that he could get away with murder. MBS didn't just trick many in the media. In a sense, they may have also tricked him," Abrahms wrote.
You’ve got to wonder how much the media fawning over MBS gave him a false sense of security that he could get away with murder. MBS didn’t just trick many in the media. In a sense, they may have also tricked him.— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) October 18, 2018
Friedman's writeup about his visit to Saudi Arabia last year was mocked by nearly every corner of the internet, with social media going bananas over his unapologetic boot-licking. In his piece, Friedman described Salman as a vivacious young visionary "whose biggest sin may be that he wants to go too fast."
"Only a fool would not root" for the Crown Prince's grand plans of modernization to succeed, Friedman gushed.
Twitter was not amused.
Mohammad Bin Salman: I’m a reformer.Thomas Friedman:You’re the best.Mohammad Bin Salman: I fight Nazis in the form of Iran.Thomas Friedman: You’re a modern day Winston Churchill.Mohammad Bin Salman: I like that.Thomas Friedman:Sure, thanks for the interview.— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) November 24, 2017
This Tom Friedman hagiography of the Saudi tyrant who is killing actual reformers & imposing famine and destruction on Yemen is - without hyperbole - utterly disgusting. If the Saudi regime bought a full-page ad in the NYT, it'd be less fawning and shameless than this column: https://t.co/5vHJ1ilWyJ— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 24, 2017
Like this story? Share it with a friend!