The Saudi Arabian rulers have gone into Damage Control mode.

Despite the fact that they have five American public relations firms working for them for millions of dollars, they are still getting bad press.

So the PR chiefs met with the Saudi Arabian prince in charge of Goodwill and Happiness.

The prince said, "I don't like what's going on in the U.S. and neither does the rest of the royal family."

Charlie Soapwitch said, "We hope to get you on Larry King. People like Larry King for his frankness and upbeat audience."

Eliott Heartsick said, "Mike Wallace or Lesley Stahl will come to Riyadh and do a piece on your palaces. Americans love to look into other people's homes."

The prince said, "It's not enough. People are suspicious of our charities. We have the most honest charities in the world. We take care of the homeless, the hungry and the poor."

Robin Goodrich said, "Let's take an ad in all the American newspapers showing National Football League players who have benefited from the charities."

George Rumplemeyer said, "We have to play down the al Qaeda connection. We'll say the Saudis did not give Osama bin Laden money, they loaned it to him at 5 percent and he put up his cave in Pakistan as collateral."

"I'm not sure it will fly," Heartsick said. "What about this? There is a $25 million reward for bin Laden's head. Why don't the Saudis double it? It will show you are sincere about finding and delivering him, dead or alive."

The prince said, "Bin Laden's family makes a lot of money in Saudi Arabia, and I doubt if my brother princes want to get them mad at us."

The PR reps were racking their brains.

Goodrich said, "Suppose we get the wife of the Saudi ambassador to go on the air with Barbara Walters and explain that when she gave $130,000 to two of the September 11 terrorists, she thought she was giving the money to the Freedom for All Women in the Free World charity."

The prince said, "If the American people believe it, we'll go for it."

Rumplemeyer said, "Maybe Barbara will ask her, 'If you were an oil well, what kind of oil well would you be?' " Rumplemeyer laughed at his own joke.

The prince said, "Let's knock off the jokes."

Goodrich said, "I think we've covered all the bases. We have to sell Saudi Arabia like we sell Pepto-Bismol. The people have to believe Saudi charities are good for them."

The prince said, "You'd better be right or we'll turn the account over to J. Walter Thompson."

(c)2002 Tribune Media Services