Khashoggi's Editor Slams Uber CEO, Says His Comment Shows the 'Spiritual Rot That Ensues When Profits Are Placed Over Lives'

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has come under fire for apparent unwillingness to criticize the Saudi government after seemingly minimizing the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, describing the crime as a "mistake."

Speaking with Axios in an interview televised Sunday, Khosrowshahi was asked about the killing of Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate in October last year. "It's a serious mistake," he replied, adding, "we've made mistakes too," referring to accidents with Uber's self-driving vehicles.

"People make mistakes, it doesn't mean they can never be forgiven," he continued. "I think they've taken it seriously."

Khosrowshahi quickly came under fire on social media, including from Khashoggi's editor at The Washington PostKaren Attiah—who said on Twitter the CEO was showing "what moral bankruptcy looks like in real time."

Attiah added, "This is the spiritual rot that ensues when profits are placed over lives."

Many Western companies and governments have been criticized for maintaining and expanding business ties with Saudi Arabia, despite the country's poor human rights record.

Saudi Arabia's royal family is the fifth-largest shareholder of Uber, and Yasir al-Rumayyan—the director of Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund—is a member of Uber's board of directors.

Khosrowshahi told Axios that Rumayyan had been a "very constructive" board member whose input he valued "greatly."

Khashoggi's murder—believed to have been personally ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, colloquially known as MBS—outraged the world and was a diplomatic disaster for Riyadh.

Regardless, the crown prince has refused to take responsibility for the killing. Instead, he has sought to shift blame to rogue Saudi agents, despite reports of significant evidence of his own involvement in the assassination.

None of those who made up the 15-man hit squad have been convicted of their crimes, and the Saudis have still not revealed the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains.

The crown prince has promised that those responsible will be punished, but the secretive legal system in Saudi Arabia is merely an extension of the royal family.

Soon after Khashoggi was asphyxiated and dismembered in Istanbul, the CIA concluded that MBS likely had a central role in the murder. Pressed by Axios on this finding, Khosrowshahi claimed he "didn't read that part of the CIA report."

The CEO later tried to walk back his remarks in an email sent to Axios. Khosrowshahi explained, "I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused."

Jamal Khashoggi, UBer, CEO, Saudi Arabia, editor
Protesters holding placards demonstrate against the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, U.K. on October 26, 2018. Jack Taylor/Getty Images/Getty