CNN’s Dana Bash pressed Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein on Sunday over President Joe Biden fist bumping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The fist bump went viral during the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia to address a wide range of issues, including “regional economic and security cooperation,” human rights and food security, threats from Iran, and global energy. The administration declassified information in 2021 blaming the crown prince for approving the capture and murder of Saudi Arabian Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who Saudi officials killed in 2018.
“Why is he fist bumping a murderer?” Bash asked.
“Well, Dana, I’m an economic adviser and I’m much more able to give you fulsome readout on meetings, not greetings,” Bernstein said. “First of all, the president explained his rationale for this meeting quite fulsomely in a Washington Post op-ed … What the president is engaged in here is trying to stabilize a critical region of this world. Something that he has consistently done in his foreign policy work as a senator for many decades.”
Bash asked if the president succeeded in strengthening economic ties with the country, a nation with one of the largest oil reserves in the global market. Bernstein said Saudi Arabia would increase their oil production capacity by nearly 50%. (RELATED: Biden’s Anticipated Handshake With MBS Turns Into A Fist Bump…And Still The Media Is Big Mad)
“The president … and some other members of our foreign policy team, have been pressuring OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] to increase production and, in fact, a few weeks ago, they talked about doing precisely that for July and August, increasing production by about 50%. So this is very much part of that kind of an effort.”
Khashoggi’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, replied to a photograph of the fist bump with the caption, “Hey @POTUS, is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands.”
“What Jamal Khashoggi would tweet today,” she said.
What Jamal Khashoggi would tweet today: pic.twitter.com/Gv4Up7TLgd
— Hatice Cengiz / خديجة (@mercan_resifi) July 15, 2022
Several members of the media and lawmakers, including Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, condemned the fist bump. Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan called the greeting “shameful,” accusing Biden of showing a level of intimacy with the crown prince. CNN host Jake Tapper said people were “revolted” by the greeting.
The president laughed at a Friday press conference when told that he is “under fire” for the fist bump. He then hit back at a reporter for asking if can be assured the crown prince will not order the death of another journalist.
“God love you, what a silly question,” Biden said. “How could I possibly be sure of any of that?”
The president told the crown prince he blames him for the death of Khashoggi, he said at a press conference.