The Saudi foreign minister who has lately served as Saudi Arabia’s mouthpiece regarding the regime’s alleged involvement with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has deep ties to Washington going back decades and once had an extensive reputation in the city as a socialite.
Adel al-Jubeir has been seen on television recently, decked out in Middle Eastern garb and providing flak for the the Saudi kingdom, which finds itself in a rough international news cycle. But not long ago, al-Jubeir could be seen hanging out at D.C.’s swankiest hot spots in a suit and tie, throwing parties and rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers in elite Washington circles.
“For years, Adel al-Jubeir was the playboy Saudi envoy and man about town, hosting parties on the diplomatic circuit, hobnobbing with this city’s political elite and appearing at events with media celebrities,” wrote the New York Times of him in 2011.
Decades before becoming Saudi Arabia’s first non-royal ambassador to the United States in 2007, al-Jubeir attended American schools. The son of a Saudi diplomat, he left Beirut with his sister when he was 16, moving to Denton, Texas. There he received his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from the University of North Texas. Later he moved to Washington, D.C., and earned his master’s in international relations from Georgetown University.
The then-Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, “plucked him from graduate school” to work at the Saudi embassy, according to the Washington Post. Al-Jubeir distinguished himself in the position, and his unaccented English made him a prime choice as spokesman for the Saudi government. (RELATED: Saudi Foreign Minister: Crown Prince Was Unaware Of ‘Rogue Operation’)
In 1991, the kingdom first chose him to be their front man during the Persian Gulf War. Throughout the 1990s, his name “was synonymous with the high-octane diplo circuit,” according to the Times. Steve Clemons, a foreign policy blogger and acquaintance of al-Jubeir, told the Times in 2011 that “Adel was considered by some to be a playboy of sorts, a guy who was not only a man about town but a bachelor who knew how to use Washington.”
After 9/11, Saudi Arabia chose him for the delicate task of defending the kingdom against the political fallout following the attack, most of whose perpetrators were from the country. When it was revealed in 2002 that money from a Saudi princess and wife of the former ambassador was likely diverted to two of the hijackers, al-Jubeir claimed that Saudi Arabia was being “unfairly maligned.”
In the early 2000s, al-Jubeir was a frequent topic of D.C. gossip columnists. “In his younger days, Jubeir would attend parties thrown by influencer Juleanna Glover Weiss, who was so successful at gathering heavy-hitters under her roof that it attracted national media attention,” reports The Washington Examiner.
For a time, he was often seen with then-NBC News anchor Campbell Brown, and the two were rumored to be dating.
“Things may have cooled between NBC White House correspondent Campbell Brown and Saudi official Adel al-Jubeir, we hear,” the New York Daily News reported on January 20, 2003. “The two stepped out several times recently in Washington. ‘They were hanging out a while ago,’ says a source, ‘but they’re not anymore.'” Campbell Brown at length moved to CNN, and is now the head of global news partnerships at Facebook.
When he was appointed the Saudi ambassadorship, al-Jubeir became less prominent, though his influence among Washington’s elite only grew. “He has a rapport with D.C. power brokers, obviously,” Jonathan Schanzer, a vice president of D.C. think-tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Examiner.
The Post wrote in 2011 that “beyond his frequent meetings at the White House and the Saudi Embassy across the street from the Kennedy Center, invitations are highly sought to his private dinners at the embassy residence in McLean and quiet lunches at Georgetown restaurants, where his name is known and his favorite table reserved.”
With his impeccable English and intimate understanding of American culture, al-Jubeir continues to be the face of the Saudi regime to American audiences, especially in times of public relations crisis. (RELATED: Middle Eastern Leaders Confident Trump Can Bring Peace To The Middle East)
In a Sunday interview with Bret Baier, al-Jubeir maintained that Khashoggi’s alleged murder in Turkey “was a rogue operation. This is an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities that they had. They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it.”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Khashoggi “was slain in a vicious, violent murder,” and that “the Saudi Arabian administration took an important step by acknowledging and admitting the murder.”