A spate of recent statements by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi comparing Saudi Arabia’s act of state-sponsored murder that saw the unfortunate demise of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to a mistake, have seen a resurgence of the #boycottuber movement.
The interview with Axios just did not see Khosrowshahi at his vocal best. To start with Khosrowshahi called the murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia a “serious mistake” (stress upon the mistake here, a murder is not a mistake) and further dug a hole for himself by comparing it to the death of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg who was struck and killed by an Uber self-driving car earlier this year.
He then went on to clinch the interview by saying that:
People make mistakes, it doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven.
For wanton murder? No, they are usually not forgiven in any civilized society with forgiveness if any, coming after a fairly long period of incarceration for the perpetrators.
Khosrowshahi appears to have had second thoughts about the faux pass fairly quickly after leaving the interview and called the Axios editor to accept as much. He also released a statement on Twitter after going into damage control mode:
There’s no forgiving or forgetting what happened to Jamal Khashoggi & I was wrong to call it a “mistake.” As I told @danprimack after our interview, I said something in the moment I don’t believe. Our investors have long known my views here & I’m sorry I wasn’t as clear on Axios.
Of course, Khosrowshahi is known for being a believer in second chances. Case in point being Uber COO Barney Harford’s statements around women and racial minorities a while ago, which were again defended by the CEO as a mistake.
I don’t think that a comment that might have been taken as insensitive and happened to report by large news organizations should mark a person. I don’t think that’s fair. And I’m sure I’ve said things that have been insensitive and you take that as a learning moment. And the question is, does a person want to change, does a person want to improve? Does a person understand when they did something wrong, and then change behaviors? And I’ve known Barney for years and that’s why I stand 100 percent behind him.
However, a murder is a much more serious thing. Regardless of the fact that Saudi Arabia is one of Uber’s biggest investors, the company is expected to be above defending the nation’s actions, specially when they involve crimes that unfortunately aren’t prosecuted because of the stature of the people complicit in it.
One of the key reasons that saw Dara replace Kalanick at Uber’s helm involved the company’s culture. Statements like these, even if they were mistakenly made, do not reflect well on Uber and even from a strategic perspective, would only serve to fan popular perception against it.
Check out the full video below: