CNN Pulls Out of Saudi Arabia Conference Amid Khashoggi Disappearance

“CNN has withdrawn its participation in the Saudi Future Investment Initiative Conference,” the network says


CNN became the latest big league sponsor to pull out of the Future Investment Initiative Conference in Saudi Arabia later this month amid growing concerns about the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi last week.

“CNN has withdrawn its participation in the Saudi Future Investment Initiative Conference,” the network said in a statement on Twitter.

The company joins both the New York Times and Economist as media partners who have dropped out of the event, often dubbed “the Davos of the Desert.” CNBC and Fox Business told TheWrap on Thursday that they were “monitoring” the situation.

Friday morning, Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith pulled out of his planned speaking appearance, and said that the company would no longer be a media sponsor for the event. “Bloomberg will no longer serve as a media partner for the Future Investment Initiative and I will no longer be attending as a Speaker. As we do with every major event in the region, we plan to cover any news from our regional news bureau,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

The NBA’s Miami Heat also confirmed to TheWrap that Matt Jafarian, VP of digital strategy and innovation, has pulled out of his planned speaking appearance. “In light of recent events, we thought it prudent to withdraw our participation in the Future Investment Initiative,” said a team spokesperson.

Once seen as on the precipice of a bright new future, Saudi Arabia is now facing accusations from senior Turkish government officials that they lured Khashoggi into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and murdered him with a 15-man hit team that then dismembered his body with a bone saw, The New York Times reported. Khashoggi has been a longtime regime dissident and most recently a sharp critic of their ongoing war in Yemen.

The kingdom has denied the allegation, but the latest reporting from CNN suggests that Turkey has both audio and video evidence to corroborate the claims.

Saudi Arabia’s reach into U.S. commercial life is extensive and the full ramifications of a broad-based boycott over Khashoggi may yet be on the horizon. Also Thursday, the WME said they were “assessing” their partnership with the kingdom as well and it is unclear what additional fallout remains in Hollywood.

Tim Baysinger contributed to this report