The Washington Post is blasting President Biden for his “shameful” fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying the greeting delivered “unwarranted redemption” to the man the U.S. says is responsible for a journalist’s murder.
The two leaders greeted each other Friday in Jeddah ahead of Mr. Biden’s bilateral with the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, and his father, King Salman.
“The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was worse than a handshake — it was shameful,” said Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan. “It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking.”
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Mr. Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” after U.S. intelligence concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed orchestrated the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and outspoken critic of the Saudi government.
Since those comments, Mr. Biden has found himself in an uncomfortable position of needing an alliance with the Saudis. He wants a commitment from Saudi Arabia to pump more oil as record-high gasoline prices continue to drag down both the U.S. economy and his poll numbers.
Mr. Biden also needs the kingdom to help further integrate Israel into the region, finalize a tenuous cease-fire between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and get their support for a stalled nuclear deal with Iran.
Since arriving in the Middle East earlier this week, Mr. Biden has been greeting foreign leaders with a first bump, which set the stage for him to avoid the handshake photo in Jeddah.
However, Mr. Biden was photographed with extended handshakes with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett.
Still, the friendly fist bump between Mr. Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed gives the Saudi leader the photo opportunity that could lend more legitimacy to his rule amid alleged human rights abuses in the kingdom.