Tom Barrack, the former head of President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, is taking heat after calling criticism of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi a “mistake.”
Speaking at a Milken Institute summit in Abu Dhabi, Barrack argued that “whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse,” according to Gulf News.
Barrack continued by brushing off atrocities in Saudi Arabia as “the rule of law” and used the leadership of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a reason to label criticism of the killing a “mistake”:
“The atrocities in any … country are dictated by the rule of law. So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves into 2030, I think is a mistake.”
Barrack went on to credit the global outcry as a “misunderstanding” that the West holds in regard to the Middle East, dating back to the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement that divided the former Ottoman Empire.
“So, the West is confused, it doesn’t understand the rule of law in the kingdom, it doesn’t understand what succession in the kingdom is, it doesn’t understand how there can be a dilemma with a population that has 60 percent of people under the age of 20,” he added.
Barrack’s comments drew criticism on social media. Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Post, weighed in:
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) February 13, 2019
Others expressed similar outrage and confusion with Barrack’s decision to conflate the United States with the Khashoggi killing:
Yes, @TomBarrackJr, America regularly lures journalists to its foreign embassies, tortures them to death, dismembers them, dissolve them in acid, lies about it, then wonders what's the big deal. https://t.co/QM5YPy04pr
— İyad el-Baghdadi | إياد البغدادي (@iyad_elbaghdadi) February 13, 2019
Trashing America to own the libs. https://t.co/Z0B6V8LNqw
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) February 13, 2019
This is taking what-about-ism to a new level. https://t.co/OlWlGKrwn0
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) February 13, 2019
In a statement to Bloomberg, Barrack clarified that he viewed the murder of Khashoggi as “atrocious” and “inexcusable,” and he apologized that his comments in Abu Dhabi did not reflect that belief.
“I feel strongly that the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom,” he added.