(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden was in Saudi Arabia on Friday, hoping a meeting with the oil-rich country’s de-facto leader Prince Mohammed bin Salman could stabilize relations with the country and possibly boost its oil output.
Biden’s planned meeting with MBS, as the prince is more commonly known by, was controversial before it even happened. Biden upped the controversy by greeting the man he once called a “pariah” with a fist-bump.
White House officials told media members the fist bump was done out of concern for COVID-19.
MBS is believed by U.S. intelligence to have ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi four years ago, a belief Biden shares. Biden claims he brought up the murder with MBS.
“I said, very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” Biden said. “I’ll always stand up for our values.”
Biden’s No. 1 goal during his visit to Saudi Arabia is not to make friends with MBS or talk about the Khashoggi killing; it is to talk about how Saudi Arabia might be able to boost its oil supply, as Americans deal with staggering gas prices back home.
“I am doing all I can to increase the supply, the Saudis share that urgency,” Biden said. “I expect to see further steps in the coming weeks.”
While Biden tries to tip toe a narrow line with MBS on human rights and oil supply, media members, Republicans and Democrats alike were quick to criticize Biden’s fist-bump with the crowned prince.
“If we ever needed a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, we got it today,” tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “One fist bump is worth a thousand words.”
The Washington Post, where Khashoggi worked, delivered a scathing review of the greeting.
“The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was worse than a handshake — it was shameful,” said a statement from Fred Ryan, the Post’s publisher. “It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.