Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was among those who accompanied President Trump to Saudi Arabia over the weekend, where he found it “fascinating” that there were no protests, which he said was evidence that there was a genuinely “good mood” about the American’s visit: “Not one guy with a placard.”
Ross provided his analysis of the mood in Saudi Arabia on CNBC this morning on the show Squawk Box. Host Becky Quick cut him off to note that Saudi Arabia does not allow protests as we do in America.
“In theory,” replied Ross blithely, “that could be true. But, boy, there was certainly no sign of it. There wasn’t a single effort of any incursion. There wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood.”
Wilbur Ross touts the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia during Trump's visit (maybe it's because protesters are jailed & sometimes beheaded?) pic.twitter.com/DQIENgtopz
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) May 22, 2017
In theory? Actually, protesting in the strict religious fundamentalist state can carry long prison terms and in some cases, there have been executions of people who spoke out at a protest, on TV or in media interviews.
Saudi Arabia is among the most repressive police states in the world, Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute Center for Mideast Policy, told CNBC: “Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy which forbids any political protest or any manifestation of dissent. It is also a police state that beheads opponents.”
“Six years ago,” the Washington Post reports, “in the midst of the popular uprisings in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring, the Saudi Council of Senior Religious Scholars issued a decree essentially banning public protests in the country.”
“The following February,” continues The Post, “a 17-year-old named Ali al-Nimr was arrested for participating in an anti-government protest. Two years later, he was sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion and remains on death row.”
Ross’s comments set off a storm of protest on Twitter, including one by a respected and honored author and professor:
Not a single hint of a protester in Auschwitz, most days. https://t.co/a7DfOxyDus
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) May 22, 2017
Even after being told that the Saudi’s did not allow protests, Ross insisted it was a wonderful reception that showed the people loved Trump and the Americans. His proof?
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016