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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Fwrd Axis) — President Joe Biden on Friday sparked backlash while on his trip to the Middle East when he greeted Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) with a fist-bump amid reports the leader approved the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The greeting had been under intense speculation since the trip was announced, with reporters asking White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if the President would shake hands with MBS but she deflected saying Biden would be fist bumping leaders in both Israel and Saudi Arabia due to COVID-19 protocols.
Despite that, Biden was seen regularly shaking hands with leaders in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem.
When running for president, Biden vowed on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” due to their long history of human rights abuse — including the murder of Khashoggi.
The move by the President immediately sparked a backlash in the United States from critics to some in Biden’s own party.
“The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammad bin Salman was worse than a handshake — it was shameful,” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said in a statement. “It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a staunch Biden ally, criticized the move.
“If we ever needed a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, we got it today,” Schiff tweeted. “One fist bump is worth a thousand words.”
If we ever needed a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, we got it today.
One fist bump is worth a thousand words.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 15, 2022
Biden spoke to the media before 11 p.m. in Jeddah, discussing what went on in the meeting between the U.S. and Saudi leaders but he did laugh off a question from a reporter about the fist bump heard around the world. The reporter asked him how he can be sure a murder like Khashoggi’s won’t happen again.
“God love you. What a silly question. How can I possibly be sure of any of that?” Biden answered. “If anything occurs like that again, they’ll get that response and much more.”
Stephen Michael reported from the United States