The New York Times has pulled out of a Saudi Arabian conference over concerns about missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but it still plans to go forward with two trips to Saudi Arabia it is hosting for readers who pay $12,000.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was a Washington Post contributor and critic of the Saudi government. The Times reported Tuesday that top Turkish security officials believe he was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, on orders from the Saudi royal court, and dismembered with a bone saw.
Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deny it. But several news organizations are examining their involvement with Saudi Arabia because of the accusation that the country’s rulers had a journalist killed.
The Times plans to continue, however, with two 10-day trips through Saudi Arabia next month — each at the $12,000 price — with an itinerary that includes five-star hotels, meals, private tours and face time with Times journalists.
“On this 10-day journey accompanied by New York Times journalists, learn more about Saudi Arabia, on the cusp of change,” reads a promotion on the Times website. “Hear perspectives from oil industry and government officials and learn how Saudi Arabia keeps its grip on its past even as it tries to embrace its future.”
A rep for the Times did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the trips. But a person who answered the phone number provided in an advertisement for the trips confirmed to TheWrap that not only were both trips still on, and were sold out.
“At this time we are still operating the November departure,” said a representative named John, who declined to give his last name. “We are operating with the itinerary as planned.”
The Times journalists expected to take part are longtime correspondent Clifford Krauss and editorial board member Carol Giacomo. Krauss and Giacomo did not immediately respond to requests for comment from TheWrap on Thursday.
The trips also include a stop-over in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier this week, the Times pulled out as a sponsor of the “Future Investment Initiative” in Riyadh over concerns about the Kingdom’s involvement with Khashoggi, the Washington Post reported.
The Times also did not respond to multiple requests for comment from TheWrap about the FII conference.
Times business and finance columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, however, said in a tweet that he would cancel his previously scheduled involvement in the conference, saying he was “terribly distressed” by the Khashoggi news.
I’m terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder. I will no longer be participating in the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.
— Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) October 11, 2018
The gathering from October 23-25, informally know as “Davos in the Desert,” remains sponsored by CNBC, CNN and Fox Business. Reps for all three told TheWrap that they were monitoring the situation Thursday.