#BoycottUber was trending Monday after the ride-sharing company likened journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder by the Saudi government to Uber’s problems with self-driving vehicles.
Dara Khosrowshahi said during an interview with Axio on HBO that Khashoggi’s murder that the Kingdom has acknowledged was a “serious mistake,” but went on to compare it to the company’s difficulties in developing autonomous vehicles.
“We stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake,” he said, before backtracking on the comments. “I think that people make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven. I think they’ve taken it seriously.”
U.S. intelligence determined Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing. He went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Saudi Arabia has sought to explain his death as the result of a rogue operation after repeatedly denying any role in his disappearance. But the narrative has been rebuffed by many in the international community.
Khashoggi’s body has never been recovered.
Karren Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, ripped Khosrowshahi’s comments, saying “everyone who uses Uber should consider the implications of” his words.
“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,” she wrote on Twitter, as the hashtag gained momentum. “When you’re rich, your crimes become ‘mistakes’. #BoycottUber.”
Riyadh is a major Uber shareholder and the head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund sits on the company’s board.
Following the interview Khosrowshahi sent an email to Axios in which he stated: “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.”