At least twice this week, Fox News has aired commentary dismissing the controversy over the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who U.S. intelligence officials believe was murdered and dismembered on the order of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Fox News guest Christian Whiton, a senior fellow at a right-wing foreign policy think tank, told the network’s Julie Banderas on Friday that Khashoggi “wasn’t really” a journalist and claimed The Washington Post “frankly has some culpability here” in his death.
Whiton suggested that publishing Khashoggi’s work in English and Arabic “really put him in harm’s way.”
The comments seemed to echo others made by Mark Steyn, a Canadian political commenter who called Khashoggi a “dead so-called journalist” when Steyn filled in Wednesday for host Tucker Carlson.
“He was kind of a deep-state Saudi spook,” Steyn added, without evidence or elaboration on what he meant.
Khashoggi had a long career as a journalist, covering conflicts in Afghanistan and Sudan for the Saudi Gazette and notably interviewing Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and 1990s. He contributed to the Post as an opinion writer on Middle Eastern affairs.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was tortured and killed Oct. 2 soon after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Whiton claimed that “what got him killed” was Khashoggi’s swing between supporting the Saudi leadership and criticizing it.
World leaders in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere have condemned the murder as a gross offense against freedom of expression, although U.S. President Donald Trump has hesitated to come down too strongly against the Saudis. Trump raised eyebrows when he suggested, against his own intelligence officials’ findings, that the crown prince might not have ordered the murder at all.
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement earlier this week.
Trump has cited his wish to preserve an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, claiming it is worth $110 billion. Agreements made so far are worth $14.5 billion.
Democrats in the House have pledged to investigate the president’s response to the murder.