Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi a "mistake" on the part of the Saudi Arabian government and compared his slaying to a fatal accident caused by a self-driving Uber vehicle.
Speaking with Axios on HBO in an interview that aired Sunday, Khosrowshahi came under pressure for a member on the company's board who "represents and works for" the Saudi government. When asked if it's appropriate to allow the member to continuing sitting on the board, the CEO said, "That government said that they made a mistake."
"Listen, it's, it's a serious mistake," he continued. "We've made mistakes too, right, with self-driving, and we stopped driving, and we're recovering from that mistake. So, I think that people make mistakes, and it doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven. I think they've taken it seriously."
The show's host pushed back by pointing out that the CIA concluded that the Saudi crown prince had a role in ordering Khashoggi's assassination and explaining that Uber "didn't intentionally run somebody over."
"I didn't read that part of the CIA report," Khosrowshahi responded. "But I think from a Saudi perspective, they're just like any other shareholder."
An hour after the interview, Khosrowshahi called Axios to express regret at the language he had chosen to describe the journalist's death. He then sent a statement the following day that read, "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."
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia, was murdered in the country's Istanbul consulate in 2018. While the Saudi government has claimed he was killed in a "rogue operation," Turkey has said the assassination was at the order of the Saudis. "Credible evidence" also indicated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was individually involved.