“I don’t believe that the Khashoggi murder is something to be forgiven or forgotten, and I was plain wrong to compare it to anything that we have been through,” he said. “That was absolutely wrong.”
Khashoggi was a Post contributing columnist and a critic of the Saudi government. U.S. intelligence has concluded that his killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The CIA based its conclusion on audio recordings and intercepted phone calls, among other intelligence.
The Saudi royal family has denied coordinating Khashoggi’s killing.
In the interview, which aired Sunday, Khosrowshahi compared Khashoggi’s killing to the fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Ariz., last year.
“It’s a serious mistake. We’ve made mistakes, too — with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake,” Khosrowshahi said in the episode of “Axios on HBO.” “I think that people make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven. I think they have taken it seriously.”
Employees said Khosrowshahi issued his two-minute mea culpa to open the company’s weekly all-hands meeting, something that expanded on a public apology Khosrowshahi had made Monday on Twitter. The remarks had helped fuel the hashtag #BoycottUber.
“I think some folks are right to have been outraged,” he said, according to his remarks at the all-hands meeting. “All of us have to take responsibility for what we do and be accountable, so I will take that accountability as your leader.”
“I am sorry for what I said during that interview,” he added, further characterizing his comments as a “mistake."
An Uber spokesman declined to comment on Khosrowshahi’s remarks.
Uber has previously faced boycotts triggering the hashtag #DeleteUber, which led to hundreds of thousands of app deletions.
Khosrowshahi contacted Axios about an hour after the interview to clarify his comments on Khashoggi. In an emailed statement to the publication the next day, he expressed his regret, writing “I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”
Saudi Arabia is Uber’s fifth-biggest shareholder, and Yasir al-Rumayyan, head of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, sits on Uber’s board of directors. Khosrowshahi said in the Axios interview that al-Rumayyan had been a constructive board member.