WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre couldn’t let it go.
The Biden administration’s chief spokesperson slammed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Monday for his “ridiculous” mockery of President Biden’s mental acuity and frequent gaffes.
Jean-Pierre initially told Toluse Olorunnipa of the Washington Post that “I don’t have any comments on that” when asked about a Wall Street Journal report describing the insults lobbed behind closed doors by the de facto Saudi leader.
Moments later, Jean-Pierre changed her mind.
“Actually, let me say something about your first question,” she told Olorunnipa. “I’m not going to comment about, you know, kind of ridiculous statements. I’m not going to comment on that.
“But I’ll be very clear: the president has been very clear since the beginning of this administration that we have to review our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Jean-Pierre added. “And so that is something that we’re going to continue to review and once we have something to share, we will certainly share that.”
She continued, “The decisions that OPEC+ made recently, we saw that as them aligning with Russia, and that is going to hurt many economies across the globe. The president is going to have more to say on that and when he does, you’ll hear directly from him.”
Veteran journalist James Rosen of Newsmax followed up by asking Jean-Pierre: “Which statements are ridiculous?”
“I’m not going to give it any more light,” Jean-Pierre replied. “I’m just saying that more broadly.”
The Journal report, which cited sources inside the Saudi government, didn’t relay specific examples of the crown prince widely known as MBS mocking Biden — but did say that the royal prefers former President Donald Trump and has had a low opinion of Biden since his time as Barack Obama’s vice president.
In April, a state-owned Saudi TV channel aired a comedy skit of Vice President Kamala Harris having to constantly correct Biden and keep him awake.
Jean-Pierre’s rebuke of MBS increases tensions that mounted after Biden returned empty-handed from his July trip to the oil-rich kingdom.
Saudi-led OPEC+ on Oct. 5 announced a 2% oil production cut going into November, humiliating Biden, who had sought to improve his relationship with Saudi leaders after average US gas prices hit records of more than $5 per gallon in June.
The OPEC+ decision could increase gas prices, hurting Democrats in the Nov. 8 election, and it prompted Biden to say that he would reassess the US-Saudi relationship. Biden then ordered the release of more oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to offset the foreign production cut.
Biden visited Saudi Arabia after trying for the last year to sideline MBS over the US intelligence community’s conclusion that he ordered the 2018 operation that killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden exchanged a controversial fist bump with MBS, but the Saudis then resisted his calls to increase production. This month, Saudi officials ignored White House pleas to delay production cuts until after the Nov. 8 elections.
House Republicans have floated Biden’s possible impeachment for asking the Saudis to postpone the reduction — with third-ranking House GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) calling it a “very egregious, inappropriate and illegal action by the president.”
The relatives of US citizens detained in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, say Biden didn’t do enough to win their release because he was more concerned about securing lower gas prices. Those detainees include Saad Almadi, 72, who was sentenced on Oct. 3 to 16 years in prison over 14 tweets mildly critical of the Saudi government, according to his family.
“[Biden] sold my father for oil,” Ibrahim Almadi told The Post last week. “He got sold for oil, but they didn’t receive the oil. So there is no father, no oil. There’s nothing — there is only shame, that is what the White House has got now.”
During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Biden sought to develop a relationship with MBS and didn’t level harsh criticisms of the prince to his face, though he told reporters afterward that he privately accused MBS of ordering the operation that killed Khashoggi.
Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir said, however, that he didn’t hear Biden accuse MBS of responsibility for the columnist’s death. The US president, returning to the White House from Saudi Arabia, told The Post that al-Jubeir was lying and that he did accuse MBS.