RIYADH (Reuters) – Uber’s chief executive said on Monday the murder by Saudi Arabia, a major investor in his company, of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year could not be excused and that he was wrong to have described the killing as a “serious mistake”.
Dara Khosrowshahi was backtracking from comments he made in an interview with “Axios on HBO” aired earlier in which he compared the Washington Post columnist’s murder by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate to a fatality caused by one of his company’s self-driving cars.
“It’s a serious mistake. We’ve made mistakes too, with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake,” Khosrowshahi said in the interview. “So I think that people make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven. I think they’ve taken it seriously…”
Khosrowshahi later said on Twitter: “There’s no forgiving or forgetting what happened to Jamal Khashoggi & I was wrong to call it a ‘mistake.’”
“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’s killing sparked a global uproar, tarnishing the image of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing. Prince Mohammed has denied that but said he bore ultimate responsibility as the country’s de facto leader.
Asked about the CIA’s assessment of the crown prince’s involvement, Khosrowshahi said: “I didn’t read that part of the CIA report … but I think from a Saudi perspective, they’re just like any other shareholder.”
Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF acquired a 5% stake in Uber in 2016 worth $3.5 billion. Its chairman sits on the board.
(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)