Conservatives smear Khashoggi to defend Trump: report

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – Conservatives have started an attack on Jamal Khashoggi's reputation to defend U.S. President Donald Trump's forbearance over the journalist's disappearance, the Washington Post wrote Friday.

In a piece published to their section Power Post, an analysis section dedicated for intelligence and analysis, the newspaper wrote right-wing media have stood behind Trump in light of the allegations of Khashoggi's death, and smeared the journalist by raising his association with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as him covering Osama bin Laden as a reporter.

A group of hardline Republican congressman have been circulating articles from right-wing media that have been fueling the suspicions of Khashoggi, it added.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Evidence is mounting that the journalist was killed and dismembered by Saudi nationals who flew into Istanbul the same day.

"The conservative push comes as Saudi government supporters on Twitter have sought in a propaganda campaign to denigrate Khashoggi," The Post wrote.

Conservative outlets, such as Fox and CR-TV, have continued the campaign by associating Khashoggi with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The newspaper noted that several aides in Trump's administration are aware of the attacks on Khashoggi's reputation, but are doing little to support or deny them.

The Post came to the defense of Khashoggi, rejecting claims made by right-wing media outlets and circulated by hardline Republicans.

“As anyone knows who knew Jamal — or read his columns — he was dedicated to the values of free speech and open debate. He went into exile to promote those values, and now he may even have lost his life for his dogged determination in their defense,” Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor that published Khashoggi's work, said in a statement.

The wave of suspicion around Khashoggi comes around the same time many U.S. lawmakers are ramping up the pressure to demand answers from the Saudi government on his whereabouts.

On Thursday, 40 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter urging Trump to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act on those responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

While there is pressure from Congress to put more pressure on Saudi Arabia, The Post argued there is "little confidence" the president will feel the need to take any punitive action or penalize any Saudi officials.

"Trump, whose grip on his party remains strong less than three weeks before the midterm elections, has seen his cautious approach to Saudi Arabia bolstered not only by the maligning of Khashoggi, but also by a conservative media infrastructure that is generally wary of traditional news organizations and establishment Republicans," The Post wrote.