Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi appeared to minimize the importance of Saudi Arabia’s brazen extrajudicial assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during an interview on Axios on HBO, declaring the journalist’s murder and dismemberment in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul “a mistake.” “I think that government said they made a mistake,” Khosrowshahi said during the interview that aired Sunday. “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’s call for forgiveness of the Saudis, Uber’s fifth largest investor, included a callous comparison to the company’s missteps in the self-driving technology space where, in March 2018, one of its vehicles accidentally struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. The back-and-forth sprung from Khosrowshahi’s decision to skip a Saudi financial summit last year following Khashoggi’s killing, which Saudi Arabia has denied despite footage taken outside the consulate and graphic audio taken inside the building, as well as a CIA assessment assigning blame to the highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself. The head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Yasir al-Rumayyan, is also a member of Uber’s board of directors.
“People make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven. I think they’ve taken it seriously,” Khosrowshahi continued. “From a Saudi perspective, they’re just like any other shareholder. Now we’re a public company, anyone can invest in our company if they choose to do so.” After the interview aired, the Uber head tried to disassociate himself from it, saying he had misspoken. “I said something in the moment that I do not believe,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement Monday. “When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”