Dozen of lawmakers and Washington leaders paid tribute to slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday at the Capitol, 100 days after the Washington Post columnist disappeared inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey, pledging to keep his story alive in the fight for global freedom of the press.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) condemned the Trump administration for its tepid response to U.S. intelligence’s determination that Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, directed the assassination because of Khashoggi’s influential writings in opposition to the government.
“There are some in our country who were saying that it was really a commercial interest, should override our values and how we speak out and act upon those values,” Pelosi told a standing-room-only crowd inside a Capitol reception room. She added, “If we decide that commercial interest should override the statements that we make and the actions that we take, then we must admit that we have lost all moral authority to talk about any atrocity.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), a former undercover intelligence officer, recalled how he learned to appreciate journalistic risk-taking when he would arrive in international hot spots only to discover reporters already there “sipping tea or having a beer.”
Hurd said the killing, which the Saudi government eventually acknowledged under international pressure, sparked a conversation even in the parts of southwest Texas that he represents.
“A lot of people have come up to me and said, why is this important? It’s causing a lot of people to remember why our press is so important,” he said.
Fred Ryan, publisher of The Washington Post, noted that dozens of other journalists were murdered last year and that thousands more were imprisoned or faced other attacks on their freedom. He called on the bipartisan gathering of congressional leaders to keep pushing the cause of journalistic freedom and to hold the administration accountable.
“Jamal’s killing is part of an escalating attack against press freedom that is being waged by tyrants around the world, and that’s why we can’t just let Jamal’s story fade away. His assassination, I believe, is a red line, a threshold,” Ryan said.