Deserted in the desert: When even allies ditch the Saudi crown prince

October 19, 2018
Category: Newsletters

In revulsion, the world keeps telling impulsive, immature Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman it wants no relationship with someone who may have launched a fatal operation on a journalist.

On Thursday, some of his closest allies checked out, and Twitter bounced the phony troll network that tried to defend him.

Fox Business Network, the last North American media partner and co-sponsor for a crumbling Saudi business conference dubbed the "Davos of the Desert," pulled out Thursday. The announcement came hours after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin withdrew as well, following CEOs and representatives from other nations. 

The reason? The disappearance of distinguished Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and persistent reports that the crown prince was behind the death. On Thursday, President Trump told The New York Times that he believed Khashoggi was killed, and that high-level Saudi authorities had a role in the journalist’s killing.

Twitter took action — what it called a routine spam operation takedown — on hundreds of accounts spreading malicious and false information about Khashoggi and defending Mohammed bin Salman, NBC News reported.

Some of those Saudi royal distortions have made their way to U.S. conservative outlets and are being spread privately by hard-line Republican members of Congress, The Washington Post reported.

“It may not be surprising that some Saudi-inspired trolls are now trying to distract us from the crime by smearing Jamal,” said Post Editorial Editor Fred Hiatt. “It may not even be surprising to see a few Americans joining in. But in both cases it is reprehensible.”

Quick hits

SPECIAL DELIVERY: A peculiar new newspaper circulation strategy, referred to by one industry exec as "reverse redlining," has core newspaper subscribers, especially in higher income ZIP codes, getting hit with big renewal rate increases, Poynter's Rick Edmonds found. Case in point: One reader reported a 27 percent increase to the price of his annual Kansas City Star subscription — $846.66 for a year of home delivery. 

ANGER TO ART: Why did the NYT’s Dan Barry go long on the life of Song Yang, a 38-year-old Chinese sex worker who fell four stories to her death in Queens? It was anger, he told Chip Scanlan, writing for Poynter. Barry got agitated reading a brief New York Daily News article with the headline: “Prostie Death Jump As She Flees Police.” “I don’t know how else to put this except to say: This really pissed me off,” Barry told Scanlan. “I didn’t like — or even know — the term ‘prostie,’ and I really didn’t like how a woman’s life and death was summarized so crassly. At that point I felt almost obliged to tell the story.”

'ANGER' FOR APPLAUSE: Last night in Montana, President Trump praised the 2017 criminal assault on a journalist by a GOP member of Congress.  "Any guy who can do a body slam," Trump said, pointing to the reporters covering the event, "he's my guy." He also said Rep. Greg Gianforte's body slam of The Guardian's Ben Jacobs, who had been asking him a question, increased Gianforte's popularity. Gianforte, who is running for re-election, pleaded guilty to the assault on the reporter. Said Guardian U.S. editor John Mulholland: "We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the President will see fit to apologize for them."

MOVES: Peter Meehan, former $25 & Under columnist for The New York Times and co-founder of the quarterly Lucky Peach, will become a contributing editor of the Los Angeles Times. Meehan will help guide the expansion of the paper’s food and dining coverage. Related: My look at the LAT’s food coverage post-Jonathan Gold.

R.I.P.: Vince Sanders, a broadcasting veteran who helped found the National Association of Black Journalists. He died Oct. 10, said Joyce Sanders, his wife of 37 years, whom he met at an NABJ event. He was 83.

THE READ: A starving nation, a freezing mountaintop, no one to help. The AP’s Christine Amaria follows a widow and her malnourished 10-year-old daughter, among 1.9 million people who have fled Venezuela’s poverty and its disastrous socialist government. (h/t Sarah Nordgren)

TWEET OF THE DAY: This one put competition aside. (h/t Doris Truong)

On Poynter.org

Want to get this briefing in your inbox every weekday morning? Sign up here.

Got a tip or a link? Please email me at dbeard@poynter.org or reach me @dabeard.

Have a good Friday and weekend ahead. See you Monday.