Washington Post Slams Biden for Saudi Fist Bump, Ignores Amazon's Full Embrace

President Joe Biden bumps fists with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (top); Saudi Arabia and Amazon sign a memorandum of understanding (bottom). / Reuters and SPA
July 21, 2022

The Washington Post sternly condemned President Joe Biden for his "shameful" greeting of Saudi Arabian royalty, but has remained mum on its owner’s extensive business dealings with the Saudis.

The paper—which is owned by Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos—led the charge following video of Biden fist-bumping the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Post’s publisher, Fred Ryan, wrote that Biden’s trip "erodes" the "moral authority" of the United States. In his piece—which is topped with an artistic rendering of Biden shaking a blood-covered hand—Ryan criticizes the president for "turning a blind eye" to the Saudi regime's alleged murder of Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. Ryan said Biden was sending the "message that the United States is willing to look the other way when its commercial interests are at stake."

Just four months before Biden’s trip, however, it was Amazon traveling to the oil kingdom for commercial interests. A senior Amazon executive was photographed shaking hands with high-ranking Saudi officials to finalize an economic partnership between the multinational conglomerate and the Islamic theocracy. The Post did not cover Amazon’s Saudi agreement, according to a review of the paper’s archive.

Since Bezos’s 2013 purchase of the Post, experts have speculated that his substantial Amazon holdings may influence the paper’s coverage. A 2018 piece in HuffPost featured anonymous statements from several Washington Post employees who said they felt uncomfortable criticizing Amazon given Bezos’s ownership of the paper.

"I tend to do less critical thinking about Amazon than I do, say, about Facebook or Google or Walmart, and the reason is fairly obvious: because I am thankful for the opportunity I have, which wouldn’t exist without Jess [sic] Bezos," one employee said. "Conflicts of interest are there no matter how well we do our jobs," another said.

Bezos has a $116 billion stake in Amazon, which has taken major steps to expand its footprint in Saudi Arabia in recent years. During the March 19, 2022, meeting between Amazon officials and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment, the company stressed its "commitment to the Kingdom."

"This partnership underscores our commitment to the Kingdom and our customers in it, and will contribute to accelerating the growth of the e-commerce sector, as well as enabling businesses to take advantage of the great growth opportunities that the Kingdom offers," said Ronaldo Mouchawar, an Amazon vice president for the Middle East region.

The major deal followed several steps taken last year by Amazon to establish a foothold in Saudi Arabia. In January 2021, Amazon extended its trademark Prime delivery service to Saudi Arabia. Two months later, Amazon announced plans to add 11 new buildings and hire 1,500 new workers in Saudi Arabia. The company also partnered last month with Saudi start-ups to help improve the country’s logistics infrastructure.

None of the developments were covered by the Post, which appears to have last covered Amazon’s business dealings in Saudi Arabia in October 2019, when the company decided to cease operations in the country following Khashoggi’s murder.

Writers at the Washington, D.C.-based liberal news outlet have not shied away from criticizing others for involving themselves with the Saudis. The Post denounced entertainment companies such as Disney for allowing their shares to be purchased by the Saudi government, criticized influencers for attending a Saudi-sponsored music festival, and attacked performers like Mariah Carey for doing shows in the country.

The paper did not respond to a request for comment on its coverage of Amazon, which also did not respond to request for comment.