Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Andrew Bowen, like many scholars in Washington, predicted Hillary Clinton would surely win.
Bowen, then a global fellow in the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, wrote a weekly column in Arab News, an English-language outlet based in Saudi Arabia. In his columns before the election, Bowen frequently criticized Donald Trump, denouncing his temper and xenophobic remarks and calling him “a man not often suited to the responsibilities of the presidency.”
Like many others, Bowen was shocked on Nov. 8. But within days, his tone changed, calling for a “new beginning” under President Trump.
Now, months later, Arab News says that Bowen requested that it delete his earlier, pre-election columns, stating he needed “to be cleared” for a possible job with the Trump administration’s State Department.
Arab News initially refused to take down the articles, and fired back — publicly. In an unapologetic post on its website, Arab News announced Tuesday it would be discontinuing Bowen’s column, explaining Bowen’s request and blasting it as “unprofessional journalistically, particularly given that there were no factual errors or libelous comments that require a redaction or correction.”
Bowen’s apparent concern is not without justification. The administration reportedly vetoed veteran GOP foreign policy expert Elliott Abrams as deputy secretary of state because he was critical of Trump before the election, The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan reported.
In the statement, Arab News wrote that Bowen “also insinuated — verbally and in writing — that he will seek the support of influential friends and contacts to help remove the articles.”
At the end of the announcement, Arab News did exactly the opposite of what Bowen requested — it linked to the complete archive of Bowen’s columns for the site.
And it concluded with one final message: “We wish Mr. Bowen the best of luck in his job application.”
But hours after the Arab News statement was published, it was taken down, along with several of Bowen’s columns. Arab News did not respond to calls or emails from The Washington Post, and the reason for the statement’s removal was not immediately clear.
Before the post was taken town, Bowen, now a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told The Post that he was surprised, “deeply concerned and saddened” by the news outlet’s comments. Bowen, a Republican, said he was told by the media organization that his “concerns” with the columns were being addressed. He refused to clarify to The Post what exactly these concerns entailed. He also declined to comment on what Arab News referred to as a “possible job” with the State Department.
“This was not the most professional way to handle it,” he told The Post regarding the statement from Arab News.
After the announcement was removed from Arab News, Véronique Rodman, director of public affairs at the American Enterprise Institute, called The Post on behalf of Bowen, saying the statement was taken down because it was a “mistake.”
Citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the incident, Foreign Policy reported Tuesday that Bowen contacted Saudi government officials he was close with to exert pressure on the news site to revert it’s statement.
Bowen, whose research and expertise focuses primarily on politics and economics of the Middle East, energy policy and U.S. national security policy, has written for and been interviewed by a number of news outlets, including The Post.
In an Arab News column published Nov. 7, Bowen wrote that Trump had done more than any other presidential candidate in modern U.S. political history to “whip up xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments in the US.”
He wrote that Trump has shown repeatedly a “frank disregard for human decency and civility” and said his speeches and image have been used in recruiting videos for the Islamic State.
Bowen wrote that Trump could serve as a straightforward deal-maker and provide a crucial perspective on how to reboot the U.S. economy and boost innovation in the country. But he said Trump’s “questionable business practices and ethics raise deep questions about the level of public corruption, which could up swell during his term in office.”
In a column published Oct. 31 and titled “Clinton’s moment,” Bowen wrote that Clinton’s “steely pragmatism and vague commitment to ideology will allow her to make the deals to advance her domestic agenda that Obama could never do.”
But then on Nov. 14, in his first column after the election, Bowen wrote:
“As a Republican who expressed deep reservations about some of the policies the president-elect articulated and some of the actions he took on the campaign trail, this election outcome indeed was initially a shock.”
I never though was a signer of #NeverTrump letters. Unlike many members of the Republican political and intellectual establishment in Washington who are either going to hold their nose and not work with the new president or those in the Democrat Party who now see opposition to Trump as their now raison d’être, the moment is now not for division but for unity.”
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