Donald Trump Jr. on Friday promoted a smear tying Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to Osama bin Laden, retweeting a series of tweets meant to imply that the Saudi commentator, who has been missing since last week, supported Islamic terrorism.
With President Trump apparently reluctant to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s alleged murder after he entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, conservative pundits have been straining to provide excuses for U.S. inaction.
Much of that effort has focused on claiming Khashoggi was a terrorist sympathizer, based on his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and career covering terrorist groups and leaders, including Bin Laden.
The latest attack on Khashoggi’s reputation started Friday with Patrick Poole, a terrorism correspondent for conservative website PJ Media. Poole ran images from a 1988 article Khashoggi wrote showing Khashoggi holding a rocket-propelled grenade with fighters in Afghanistan opposing the Soviet Union.
Khashoggi was among a number of journalists who interviewed Bin Laden in the 1980s and ’90s. But the picture and article, Poole claimed, was proof that Khashoggi was “tooling around Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden.”
“He’s just a democrat reformer journalist holding a RPG with jihadists,” Poole tweeted.
Sean Davis, the co-founder of conservative website The Federalist, commented on Poole’s tweet to suggest that Khashoggi’s defenders were being duped by Iranian interests looking to hurt relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
“Huh,” Davis wrote. “It’s almost like reality is quite different than the evidence-free narratives peddled by media with a long history of cooperating with or getting duped by Iran echo chamber architects.”
Trump Jr. then boosted Davis’ post, retweeting for his 3 million Twitter followers the attack on Khashoggi.
President Trump has appeared unwilling to act against Saudi Arabia for what increasingly looks like a state-ordered murder of Khashoggi, who frequently criticized the Saudi royal family.