- During a speech at the Time 100 Gala on Tuesday, the comedian Hasan Minhaj called out the White House adviser Jared Kushner for his relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- “It would be crazy if, I don’t know, if there was just like… a high-ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, ‘Hey, maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it,'” Minhaj said, referring to Kushner’s reported use of WhatsApp to communicate with the Saudi crown prince.
- Minhaj went viral earlier this year after Netflix bowed to Saudi Arabia’s request to remove an episode of his comedy show that was critical of the Saudi government.
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During a speech at the Time 100 Gala on Tuesday, the comedian Hasan Minhaj called out the White House adviser Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, for his close ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“I’m very lucky that I get to be here in America, and I can make jokes about very powerful leaders, and I have the safety of being here in America,” Minhaj said. “We have a lot of incredible rights here in America and safeties that we take for granted oftentimes.”
Minhaj referred to his recent criticism in an episode of his Netflix show, “Patriot Act,” of the Saudi government’s killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Middle Eastern government pressured Netflix into removing the episode from its streaming service in the country.
The comedian also argued that activists like Loujain Al-Hathloul, a 29-year-old Saudi women’s-rights advocate who remains imprisoned and whose sister said had been tortured by the Saudi government, deserved more praise than he did. (Minhaj made the Time 100 list this year, and Al-Hathloul was an honoree.)
He then turned his focus to the US government’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia and singled out Kushner, without naming him, asking whether “a high-ranking official in the White House” could message Prince Mohammed (commonly referred to as MBS) on WhatsApp and ask him to release Al-Hathloul from prison. Kushner has reportedly used the encrypted-messaging app to communicate with the crown prince.
“This is a very powerful room. And, you know, I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here. And it would be crazy if, I don’t know, if there was just like … a high-ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, ‘Hey, maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it.’ But that would be crazy,” Minhaj said.
“That person would have to be in the room,” he said. “But that’s just a good comedy premise.”
Kushner was at the gala.
The president’s son-in-law has pushed for closer ties with the Saudis, and particularly with Prince Mohammed. And members of Kushner’s family, including his brother, Josh, have simultaneously conducted business with the Saudi government.
In the episode of his comedy show, Minhaj accused the Saudi government of covering up Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. The CIA concluded in November that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.
Minhaj also criticised US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the countries’ diplomatic relations, the US-backed and Saudi-led war in Yemen, and the Saudi government’s treatment of women.
Netflix removed the episode in early January at the Saudi government’s request, citing a Saudi law that bans “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers.”
The episode soon went viral on YouTube. Minhaj told The Atlantic in December that the situation had made him fear for his family’s safety.
Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube.
— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) January 2, 2019
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