Major media companies are pulling funds from a high-profile event in Saudi Arabia, protesting the country’s suspected role in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and critic of Saudi Arabia, has not been seen publicly since entering the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey last week.
U.S. and Turkish intelligence officials reportedly suspect that Khashoggi was murdered in the embassy after Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman had attempted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia to detain him.
Saudi Arabia’s suspected role in Khashoggi’s disappearance has created an outcry among journalists and press-freedom advocates. On Thursday, a Los Angeles Times spokesperson told The Daily Beast that owner Patrick Soon-Shiong would no longer appear at the The Future Investment Initiative (FII), an investment conference hosted by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
On Thursday, CNBC anchor and New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin announced that he was “terribly distressed” by Khashoggi’s disappearance, and would no longer attend the conference. The New York Times, which had also previously agreed to sponsor the event, pulled out on Wednesday. CNN on Friday announced that it would no longer be participating in the conference.
Still, a number of media backers have remained sponsors of the event, which also includes speakers like Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith and Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo.
Asked about whether they would continue to back FII despite Khashoggi’s disappearance, CNBC, the Financial Times, and Fox Business Network said they are still monitoring the situation.
(UPDATE: On Friday morning, after this story’s publication, Bloomberg withdrew its involvement with the conference.)
Khashoggi’s disappearance has been condemned by lawmakers on both sides, and inspired media outlets to pressure lawmakers about how his disappearance affects relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
When President Trump said, during a Thursday morning interview on Fox & Friends, that the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia was “excellent” despite Khashoggi’s disappearance, host Brian Kilmeade cut him off.
“But you can’t be killing Americans—you can’t be killing Washington Post journalists,” Kilmeade said. “Is everything in jeopardy now? Is that in jeopardy now, good relations with Saudi Arabia?”
“I have to find out what happened,” Trump replied. “I do have to find out. We’re probably getting closer than you might think, but I have to find out what happened.”