State Department spokesperson Ned Price got into another testy exchange with reporters after repeatedly being questioned about a recent mass execution by Saudi Arabia.
Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia had executed 81 men in one day on Saturday, the largest such mass killing in decades.
Charges, according to the report, ranged from terrorism-related offenses to holding “deviant beliefs.”
“Rights groups have accused Saudi Arabia of enforcing restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and criticized it for using the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors,” the outlet contends.
The mass execution comes as the Biden administration has actively been engaging with Saudi Arabia over oil output.
One reporter asked State Department spokesman Ned Price if the United States would care to condemn the mass executions in Saudi Arabia.
“On Saturday, Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution of 81 people, drawing condemnation from rights groups,” she said. “Does the United States also condemn the executions?”
Price refused, and repeated the phrase that the administration had ‘raised concerns’ over human rights and fair trials in general.
“We continue to raise with Saudi Arabia the need to ensure fair trial guarantees, freedom from arbitrary and extrajudicial detention, transparency, the rule of law, and freedom of religion and belief,” he replied.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee chimed into the exchange saying incredulously, “So that’s it? You don’t have anything else to say about 81 people just being summarily – being executed?”
Lee continued to press, asking if Price feels human rights had been taken into account in these cases.
“Well, do you think that happened here?” he asked.
The State Department spokesman replied that the administration is “continuing to raise concerns about fair trial guarantees.”
Lee quipped, “Did you express concern over the weekend?”
“Can’t speak to the timing of that, but we have raised these concerns,” Price replied.
The reporter kept trying to get an answer out of Price as to whether or not the State Department specifically ‘raised concerns’ about the mass executions in Saudi Arabia after they happened.
“So you didn’t call them after this happened or when you saw the report?” Lee asked, which Price snapped was an attempt to “put words in my mouth.”
Lee pressed Price on the administration’s vow to no longer treat Saudi Arabia with “kid gloves.”
President Biden had vowed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and treat them as a “pariah,” which he contended would be a departure from the Trump administration.
“We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are,” he said at a Democrat debate in 2019.
Lee continued: “It’s one thing if you don’t think that there’s an issue with the mass execution of 81 people over the weekend, but if you —”
“In the category of not putting words in my mouth, I did not say that,” Price responded.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that leaders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) refused to take calls from President Biden.
The administration has denied the report.
Left-wing host of “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah, mocked Biden over the alleged snub from the Arab nations.
Other reports indicated that Biden’s advisors were considering a trip to Saudi Arabia to “convince the Kingdom to pump more oil.”
Lee, meanwhile, has a bit of a history getting into tense exchanges with the State Department spokesman.
Price was visibly upset with the reporter just last month when Lee demanded evidence for the administration’s claim that Russia was about to carry out a ‘false flag’ operation in Ukraine.
“You have shown no evidence to confirm that … What is the evidence? I mean, this is like ‘crisis actors,’ really?” Lee charged.
“This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into,” he continued. “What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?”
Families of victims of 9/11 have criticized President Biden for engaging Saudi Arabia over oil output, demanding he maintains focus on “accountability” for the terrorist attacks.
Perhaps the State Department can ‘raise concerns’ in regards to that as well.
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