Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi is under fire for saying that the murder and bonesaw dismemberment of Washington Post opinion writer Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government was a “mistake.”
The remark has given new life to the #BoycottUber hashtag, which was trending on Twitter Monday with more than 12,000 people tweeting about it.
Khosrowshahi, who replaced Uber founder Travis Kalanick in 2017, made the comments earlier this week in an Axios interview that aired Sunday. When he was asked about the vicious killing of Khashoggi, the Uber CEO downplayed the violence, suggesting that bygones be bygones.
“I think that government said that they made a mistake,” Khashoggi said in response to a question about the head of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund maintaining a seat on Uber’s board.
He compared Khashoggi’s murder to Uber’s accidental killing of a homeless woman in Arizona with its self-driving car last year.
“We’ve made mistakes too, right, with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake,” Khosrowshahi said. “So I think that people make mistakes, it doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven. I think they have taken it seriously.”
When reporter Dan Primack countered that the CIA has suggested Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman directly ordered the assassination, Khosrowshahi said that he “hadn’t read” that part of the CIA report.
Khosrowshahi suggested that Uber was defenseless to police who invests in it because of its public status.
“I think from a Saudi perspective, they’re just like any other shareholder,” he said. “They’re a big investor, just as you could be a big investor as well.”
Axios said that following the interview, Khosrowshahi contacted the reporters to “express regret” for the language he had used in the interview, and sent them an a follow-up statement.
“I said something in the moment that I do not believe,” the statement read. “When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”
But Khosrowshahi’s apology hasn’t mollified critics.
“If one of @Uber‘s main investors kills someone it doesn’t really matter. A representative of a murderous regime can still keep a board seat.,” Washington Post Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah tweeted. “When you’re rich, your crimes become ‘mistakes.’”
“A mistake is accidentally not replacing the toilet paper if you’re the last to use it,” another user wrote. “A mistake is not brutally murdering by hacking a journalist who opposed his government.”