Uber's ultra-millionaire CEO Dara Khosrowshahi came under fire Sunday for downplaying the Saudi kingdom's gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a "mistake" comparable to technological malfunctions in self-driving cars.
"It's a serious mistake," Khosrowshahi told Axios in an interview that aired late Sunday. "We've made mistakes, too—with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we're recovering from that mistake. I think that people make mistakes, it doesn't mean they can never be forgiven. I think they have taken it seriously."
Khosrowshahi's comments sparked immediate outrage and the trending Twitter hashtag #BoycottUber.
Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for the Washington Post, where Khashoggi worked as a columnist before he was brutally assassinated and dismembered, called the Uber CEO's remarks "absurd" and noted that the repressive Saudi government is one of Uber's largest shareholders.
"Not only is he running cover for the Saudi government by saying the pre-planned murder of a Washington Post writer was a 'mistake,' he compares the murder of a human being to Uber making a tech glitch," Attiah tweeted. "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. When you're rich, your crimes become 'mistakes.'"
Watch Khosrowshahi's comments:
Khosrowshahi later apologized for his comments and said he was "wrong" to call Khashoggi's murder a mere mistake.
"There's no forgiving or forgetting what happened to Jamal Khashoggi," Khosrowshahi tweeted Monday morning. "I said something in the moment I don't believe. Our investors have long known my views here and I'm sorry I wasn't as clear on Axios."
As Ben Freeman and William Hartung of the Center for International Policy wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times last month, the Saudi regime has yet to be held accountable for Khashoggi's assassination.
"On the anniversary of Khashoggi's murder," said Freeman and Hartung, "we owe it to him to stand up to the Saudi lobby and the president, and once and for all punish the Saudi government for what it has done."