December 8, 2021

A man who might have been involved in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is being detained in France. I say might because French authorities aren’t sure they have the right man. And Saudi authorities are saying it’s a case of mistaken identity and are calling for his release.

Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi was detained on an outstanding Turkish warrant when he tried to fly from Paris to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

The Washington Post’s Rick Noack and Sarah Dadouch wrote, “A man identified as Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi was one of 17 Saudis sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2018 for playing a role in the killing. U.S. records showed that a Saudi passport held by a man with the same name as Otaibi was used to enter the United States for trips that overlapped with three visits by members of the royal family. The Washington Post in 2018 found his contact identified with a symbol of the Royal Guard in the Arabic caller-ID app MenoM3ay.”

An unidentified Saudi official told the Post that this is a case of mistaken identity and that “those convicted of the crime are currently serving their sentences in Saudi Arabia.” The Saudi Embassy in Paris said the arrested person “has nothing to do with the case in question.”

A French police spokesperson told the Post, “It’s still possible that this is the right person, just as it’s still possible that it’s the wrong person. At this point, we don’t know.”

Otaibi was believed to be a part of a team sent to kill Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. A columnist for the Post, Khashoggi had been critical of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In 2019, five people were sentenced to death and three were sentenced to jail over Khashoggi’s murder, but the death sentences were overturned and the verdicts were set aside.

The New York Times’ Ben Hubbard and Aurelien Breeden wrote, “The arrest could reignite the international intrigue caused by the killing at a time when Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are seeking to leave it behind and rebuild their international reputation.”

If this is, indeed, Otaibi, he could be extradited to Turkey and he would be the first person tried for Khashoggi’s murder outside of Saudi Arabia.

Former U.N. investigator Agnes Callamard told Reuters’ Alain Acco and Tassilo Hummel, “This could be a major breakthrough in the quest for justice for Jamal Khashoggi.”

Alcindor joins NBC News full time

Yamiche Alcindor. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Here’s a big journalism move: Yamiche Alcindor is joining NBC News as a Washington correspondent covering the Biden administration. She is expected to start in March. Alcindor is moving over from PBS and her regular duties on “PBS NewsHour.” However, Alcindor will continue to host PBS’s “Washington Week.”

Alcindor won’t be totally new to NBC and MSNBC viewers. She has been a network contributor since 2016 and is seen often on shows such as “Meet the Press,” “Morning Joe,” “Deadline: White House,” and “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

Alcindor tweeted, “This feels like coming home to family.”

Before joining “PBS NewsHour” as a White House correspondent, Alcindor was a national political reporter for The New York Times and USA Today. She is one of the best — and most recognizable — reporters in Washington and this is a solid hire by NBC News.

As Mediaite’s Alex Griffing notes, Alcindor joins Politico’s Marc Caputo and ABC News’ Tom Llamas as recent high-profile hires made by NBC News.

Chris Cuomo update

The New York Post’s Emily Smith and Bruce Golding are reporting that fired CNN anchor Chris Cuomo is set to sue the network if they don’t pay him at least $18 million to cover what’s left on his contract. It’s believed Cuomo was paid $6 million annually and had three years left on a four-year deal he signed last year.

But an “insider” told the Post that CNN believes it had cause to fire Cuomo and doesn’t owe him anything. During a town hall meeting with employees on Tuesday, CNN president Jeff Zucker reportedly said Cuomo did not receive a severance package.

Meanwhile, things got worse for Cuomo on Tuesday.

Book publisher HarperCollins canceled plans to publish a book by Cuomo. A division of the publisher — Custom House — had been planning to publish a book called “Deep Denial” in 2022. Kelly Rudolph, a spokeswoman for Custom House, told CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Kevin Breuninger, “We do not intend to publish the book.”

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Q&A of the day

Gawker’s Tarpley Hitt interviewed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the headline on it couldn’t be more perfect: “A very weird interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.”

Very weird, indeed.

Forbes’ most powerful women

MacKenzie Scott in 2018. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Forbes is out with its list of 100 most powerful women of 2021.

Author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is No. 1 on the list, followed by Vice President Kamala Harris, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and philanthropist Melinda French Gates.

Other noteworthy women on the list with media/tech connections include Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat (No. 20); Oprah Winfrey (No. 23); Microsoft CFO Amy Hood (No. 28); Viacom CBS chairwoman Shari Redstone (No. 31); Laurene Powell Jobs (No. 32); Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (No. 36); Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden (No. 50); head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke (No. 54); chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Donna Langley (No. 56); Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott (No. 61); chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group Anne Sarnoff (No. 63); and Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu (No. 98).

And coming in at No. 100 in the list? Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Newsmax parting ways with vaccine conspiracy theorist

Out with one controversial reporter and in with another.

I had never even heard of Emerald Robinson until she said some ridiculous stuff about COVID-19 vaccines. Robinson was a White House reporter for the pro-Trump Newsmax network, but made headlines last month when she said on Twitter that the vaccine contained a tracker linked to the devil. She ultimately was permanently banned by Twitter, and wasn’t seen on the air since the infamous tweet.

Now she’s out at Newsmax. In a statement, the network said, “Emerald is still with Newsmax, however her contract ends in January and we will not be renewing it. We appreciate the work she has done on-air for the network.”

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona reports Robinson will be replaced by former Fox News reporter James Rosen. Baragona writes, “Rosen, who joins Newsmax from conservative local-news giant Sinclair Broadcasting, comes with his own set of personal baggage. Following his exit from Fox News in 2017, it was reported that his departure came amid a string of sexual misconduct claims. Besides allegedly groping young female reporters, Rosen was also accused of retaliating against those who rejected his alleged advances.”

In a statement, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy said, “James Rosen is not only a reporter’s reporter, but also a great thinker and author who can share complex issues on a TV screen and explain them in clear and understandable ways. We are pleased and proud to have him as a key part of our growing news team.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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