Colony Capital Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tom Barrack, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, apologized following backlash over his comments that it’s a mistake to criticize the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was atrocious and is inexcusable,” Barrack said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “I apologize for not making it clear at the time that I consider the killing reprehensible.”
On Tuesday, Barrack had said that “whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal or worse to the atrocities in Saudi Arabia.”
“The atrocities in any autocratic country are dictated by the rule of law,” he said Tuesday at a Milken Institute summit in Abu Dhabi. “So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there when we have a young man and a regime that’s trying to push themselves into 2030 I think is a mistake.”
Khashoggi, an insider-turned-critic of the Saudi ruling regime, was killed and dismembered by people close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate after entering to pick up documents for his wedding. Saudi Arabia has said the crown prince, the kingdom’s 33-year-old de facto ruler, was not aware of any plan to kill Khashoggi.
Barrack has been seeking money from sovereign wealth funds and pension plans to invest alongside Colony, a $44 billion investment firm. He was chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, which disclosed raising a record-setting $107 million. The committee’s donors and potential foreign connections have drawn scrutiny, leading to a federal investigation. Barrack is cooperating with the inquiry.
The Khashoggi killing sparked a crisis in U.S.-Saudi relations after Trump built his Middle East strategy around an alliance with the kingdom. Saudi Arabia was the first nation Trump visited after taking office in 2017 and he frequently boasted about U.S. weapons sales brokered during his trip.
But the murder of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote for the Washington Post, sparked outrage internationally and in Congress, where even top Republican leaders such as Senator Lindsey Graham broke with the president and pushed to sanction the kingdom. Trump and his top advisers say they want accountability for the crime, but also that they don’t want to put the broader relationship with Saudi Arabia at risk.