NBC’s Richard Engel found the White House’s glowing tribute to King Abdullah ironic, since the late Saudi leader “could not stand President Obama.”
After the 90-year-old monarch passed away Thursday evening, the Obama administration released a statement praising the long-time American ally. “I have always valued King Abdullah’s perspective,” the president wrote, “and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.”
But Engel said that King Abdullah “did not like President Obama. In fact, a lot of people I know that are quite close to the late King Abdullah said that the king could not stand President Obama, because the president was supportive of the Arab Spring, because the president did not support Hosni Mubarak in Egypt — in fact, turned his back on Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.”
The former Egyptian president and close Saudi ally was overthrown in a popular uprising in February 2011, ushering in an era of Muslim Brotherhood control that strained relations between Egypt and the largely-secular Saudi leadership. Despite Mubarak’s long-time backing of U.S. interests in the region, President Obama refused to lend him American support and urged him to step down. The Brotherhood was removed from power in a popular uprising supported by the Egyptian military in July 2013.
The network’s chief foreign correspondent concluded that “this ‘close, personal bond’ between the president and the late Saudi leader, I think, is people being polite at the time of a national funeral.”