Fox Business Network became the latest media outlet to cut ties with a glitzy business conference slated to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the disappearance of dissident columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet had been named as a media partner of the Future Investment Initiative, along with Bloomberg, The Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times, and Al Aribiya News Channel. The event is scheduled to take place in Riyadh between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25. But even as CNN and other mainstream news outlets cut ties with the event, spokespersons for Fox Business said the network continued to monitor the situation.
“Fox Business Network has canceled its sponsorship and participation in the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia. We continue to seek an interview with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” the network said in a statement. Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo had been scheduled to take part in the event, but will not attend unless there is an opportunity for her to conduct an unrestricted interview with the Saudi leader, according to a person familiar with the matter. The network has been trying to secure such a conversation, this person said.
The conference is hosted by the Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” the conference was first held last year, and has been seen as an opportunity for the mideast nation to spotlight the modernization efforts of Crown Prince Mohammed. The PIF is an investor in Penske Media Corporation, the parent company of Variety.
Fox Business’ decision comes hours after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would not attend the investor summit.
Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish authorities have told reporters that Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate by a state-sponsored hit squad, and other media outlets have reported subsequently that members of the team sent to Turkey had close ties to Saudi government.
More to come…