Not buying it: Lawmakers & journalists skeptical of Saudi story about Khashoggi death
Multiple US lawmakers, journalists and pundits voiced their disbelief in the official Saudi account of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death, calling it spin and a cover-up. Some even blamed US President Donald Trump.
Khashoggi, 59, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. For two weeks, Saudi Arabia denied Turkish accusations that a team of assassins killed him inside and dismembered his body. On Saturday, the Saudis announced Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” inside the consulate, and that 18 people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
READ MORE: Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi died in accidental ‘fistfight’ inside the consulate
“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).
First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018
Karen Attiah, Washington Post's editor, seemed to be frustrated and pissed over the Saudi account of a member of their staff's death, calling the preliminary version of the investigation“utter bullsh*t."
“Khashoggi was a 60-year-old man. What sort of equal 'fight' would he have had against 15 other men? And who brings a bone saw to a ‘discussion?!’ The stupidity of the Saudi explanation is mind-boggling,” Attiah said on Twitter.
#Khashoggi was a 60 year old man. What sort of equal “fight" would he have had against 15 other men? And who brings a bone saw to a “discussion”?!The stupidity of the Saudi explanation is mind boggling….— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) October 20, 2018
“He was a journalist. Not freaking Bruce Lee,” tweeted journalist Xeni Jardin.
THEY'RE SAYING HE FOUGHT 18 GUYS. He was a journalist. Not freaking Bruce Lee. pic.twitter.com/HOvc3yKzfe— XENI (@xeni) October 19, 2018
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-California) called the story “ridiculous on its face” and brought up a claim by unnamed Turkish officials that Khashoggi had been cut up by a bone saw.
The Saudi Arabia story that Khashoggi would get into a fist fight with up to 18 Saudis, many of whom are trained killers, is ridiculous on its face. Oh, and there's that whole bone saw thing. https://t.co/k9hrIJAQRU— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) October 19, 2018
Maggie Haberman of the New York Times also wondered about the bone saw.
Do fist fights routinely involve bone saws and I just hadn't known that? No? https://t.co/qMjf7mrn0h— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 19, 2018
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof called the official story a “cover-up” that aims to “obfuscate and protect the Mad Prince” - meaning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - “by pinning this murder on fall guys.”
The Saudi cover-up begins. The aim is to obfuscate and protect the Mad Prince by pinning this murder on fall guys. Will Trump join the cover-up? We will soon find out. https://t.co/1LyNuk6dEA— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) October 19, 2018
“MBS needs to work on his cover story. This one won’t hunt,” quipped Kristof’s fellow neoconservative and Washington Post columnist Max Boot.
So a 60-year-old journalist got into a fistfight inside the Saudi consulate with a team of security service goons and just happened to get killed? MBS needs to work on his cover story. This one won’t hunt. https://t.co/GDmquYKHvF— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) October 19, 2018
Comedian and political activist Dean Obeidallah blamed Trump - or rather, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and adviser-son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Either Mike Pompeo or Jared Kushner gave the Saudis this cover story. Id say Congress should investigate but the GOP Congress is complicit with Trump— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) October 19, 2018
The official story is not a cover-up or attempt to blame “rogue killers” - as Trump put it several days ago - but implicates high-level intelligence officials, argued Ali Shihabi, head of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, DC.
This is not saying "rogue killers" but implicating virtually the whole top leadership of foreign intelligence. They carried out a mission that went sour very quickly and tried to cover it up initially. Bad news travels slowly to the top.— Ali Shihabi (@aliShihabi) October 19, 2018
Meanwhile, Prince bin Salman has been put in charge of a Saudi committee tasked with overhauling the country’s General Intelligence Directorate. The agency’s deputy director and bin Salman adviser, General Ahmed bin Hassan bin Mohammed Asiri, has been sacked over the Khashoggi affair.
Statement on Saudi Arabia Investigation: pic.twitter.com/DjBdwZAGAi— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 19, 2018
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