President Joe Biden drew heated criticism Friday for engaging in a friendly fist bump greeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), whose alleged role in approving the sinister – and indeed grisly – 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi prompted international outrage and put a spotlight on the kingdom’s notorious history of human rights abuses, as the Daily Wire reports.
Ahead of the president’s recent trip to the Middle East, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made the announcement, as Fox News noted, that Biden would shun handshakes while abroad due to concerns about COVID-19, though most observers understood the move as an effort to sidestep the need to offer a cordially outstretched hand to the leader of Saudi Arabia, a state Biden himself previously pledged to treat as a “pariah.”
However, it appeared that Biden forgot about that self-imposed protocol upon arrival in Israel, as he was seen shaking hands with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not long after fist bumping with current Prime Minister Yair Lapid and other dignitaries.
As Reuters reported on Friday, Biden opted for the fist bump once again at the start of his meeting with MBS, and much to his certain dismay, the gesture backfired in spectacular fashion, with critics wasting no time in slamming the move as a credibility booster for a truly diabolical figure on the global stage.
During a press conference following the meeting, a reporter asked for Biden’s take on the encounter, saying, “You’re coming under a lot of fire for your fist bump with the crown prince,” and amid the start of laughter from the president, added, “I just want to give you a chance to respond to that.”
“God love you. What a silly question,” Biden replied, dismissing the importance of the greeting, despite the obvious attempt by the White House to stage manage the moment to avoid precisely the impression that was created.
Biden did not get off as easily as he had hoped, as a second reporter asked for his reaction to a tweet posted by Khashoggi’s fiancee, which included what she claimed would have been his response to the fist bump, namely, “Hey @POTUS, is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands.” Again, dismissively, the president answered, “I’m sorry she feels that way.”
Helping cement the disastrous nature of Friday’s optics, even the notoriously liberal Washington Post blasted the president over his interaction with the crown prince, with CEO Fred Ryan saying, “The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was worse than a handshake – it was shameful. It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking.”