When the Saudi Ambassador’s wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, was revealed to have given money to supporters of two of the 9/11 hijackers, the Saudi spin machine launched into immediate overdrive, sending top flack Adel al-Jubeir to appear on seemingly every news show. And major media outlets, including the New York Times, simply accepted as fact al-Jubeir’s claim that Princess Haifa would never, never support Islamic fundamentalists, since her father, King Faisal, had been assassinated by an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist. One hint, though, that al-Jubeir might be lying, is that he couldn’t seem to decide if this had taken place in 1975, which is what he told CBS, or in 1995, which is what he claimed on ABC.
The New York Times, in multiple reports and an editorial (“Terror Money,” Nov. 26), repeated at face value claims by al-Jubeir and Princess Haifa that her father, King Faisal, “was murdered by an Islamic extremist.”
CNN got into the act as well, interviewing the head of the Arab-American Institute, James Zogby, who informed viewers that King Faisal had been “assassinated by an Islamic extremist.”
In fact, King Faisal was murdered in 1975 by his nephew, Prince Faisal ibn Musad Abdel Aziz, who was described at the time by Saudi officials and in the Times as “deranged,” “mentally unsound,” and a “drug abuser” who had been arrested on LSD charges while a student at the University of Colorado (New York Times, March 26 and 27, 1975). Other reports indicated that he had been known to misbehave in Lebanese nightspots, and that his passport had then been withheld by the Saudi government, keeping him in the country, perhaps as a way of keeping him out of trouble. And also perhaps providing a motive for the murder of his uncle, King Faisal.
In any event, the assassin prince hardly fit the profile of an Islamic fundamentalist, which is why at the time no one – no one – described him as such.
Whether Princess Haifa knowingly supported terrorists or not, rewriting the history of her father’s assassination only raises further questions about the credibility of the Saudi leadership. And dutifully repeating the deception without bothering even to check doesn’t say much for the credibility of the Times, CBS, ABC, et al.