Bill Clinton's Press Secretary Called This Saudi Prince a ‘Ruthless Killer.’ Now, He Works for Him.

Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart (1999) (Getty Images)
February 7, 2024

Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, once referred to Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman as "one of the most ruthless killers in the world." That could prove awkward for the Democratic operative, who this week registered as a foreign agent of a sovereign wealth fund controlled by the Saudi leader.

Lockhart, a managing director of the public relations firm Rational 360, registered with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent of the Public Investment Fund, an $800 billion investment fund controlled by bin Salman, known as MBS. Lockhart, who touts his ability to "control a narrative" on behalf of Rational 360 clients, will provide "public relations and communications support" for the Public Investment Fund, and engage with Congress and the executive branch, according to his disclosure. The Saudi fund recently agreed to terms with the Professional Golf Association to merge with the Saudi-backed LIV Tour.

The turn could open Lockhart up to charges of hypocrisy. A former CNN pundit and NFL spokesman, Lockhart roasted former president Donald Trump during his presidency for, among other things, his close ties to MBS and the Saudi government. He accused Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner of trying to cash in on Saudi relations.

Lockhart claimed in 2020 that Kushner "covered up" for MBS after the Saudi leader ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In 2019, Lockhart called MBS one of "the most ruthless killers in the world," alongside Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, because of his role in Khashoggi's death.

Lockhart claimed without evidence that Trump secured financing from Russia or Saudi Arabia to cover debts he reportedly owed the Bank of China. He also falsely claimed in September 2020 that Trump suffered a stroke on the campaign trail, leading the Trump campaign to call on CNN to fire Lockhart.

It remains unclear how much Lockhart stands to make from the Saudi dictator’s investment fund.

Rational 360 says in its filings that it is still hashing out the details of its contract with the Saudis.

Patrick Dorton, the CEO of Rational 360, said the firm is "proud to be working for the Public Investment Fund," and said it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States over the next decade.

"There’s been a dramatic transformation in Saudi Arabia in recent years and we are pleased that our client PIF has been a driving force of this positive change," Dorton told the Free Beacon.

Lockhart did not respond to a request for comment. The Saudi embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

Lockhart’s apparent hypocrisy is reminiscent of another Democratic operative. Bakari Sellers, a Democratic consultant and CNN contributor, registered as a foreign agent of Liberia in 2021, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Sellers has claimed the Republican Party is homophobic, but Liberia has outlawed homosexuality.