Saudi TV ridicules Biden in rare dig as relations sour
A prominent Saudi television network has racked up millions of views with a comedy sketch that openly mocks US President Joe Biden, an unusual move that further signals souring ties.
prominent Saudi television network has racked up millions of views with a comedy sketch that openly mocks US President Joe Biden, an unusual move that further signals souring ties.
The sketch aired this week by MBC, the biggest pan-Arab entertainment network, shows Biden, played by comedian Khaled Al-Faraj, falling asleep at a podium twice in under a minute while straining to deliver a “stern message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin concerning the war in Ukraine.
Faraj’s Biden is then dragged away by an actor playing Vice President Kamala Harris, whom he erroneously addresses as “first lady”.
s of Wednesday afternoon, the clip had been viewed at least seven million times on Twitter alone, spurring comments from social media users in both countries.
MBC’s chairman, Waleed al-Ibrahim, was detained with other elite businessmen at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in a 2017 anti-corruption drive, though he was released the following January.
The network generally airs views in line with those of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed a widening split between Washington and Riyadh, whose close relationship based on the provision of cheap Saudi oil in exchange for US military protection dates back to the 1940s.
The kingdom has resisted US pressure to raise oil output in an attempt to rein in prices that have spiked since the Ukraine war began.
There are also lingering tensions over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — a US resident and contributing columnist at the Washington Post — by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul.
Last year, Biden declassified an intelligence report that found that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, an assertion Saudi authorities deny.
The two men have not spoken since Biden took office.
Some Twitter users on Wednesday welcomed the MBC clip mocking Biden, saying it was long overdue.
“Many American media professionals insulted our leaders and our country and publicly declared their hostility, while those who lay prostrate did nothing,” one wrote.
But others downplayed its significance and dismissed suggestions it would have any meaningful impact on diplomacy.
“There are dozens of programmes and scenes in America that ridicule the American president and other world leaders, including the heads of Arab countries and the rulers of the Gulf,” wrote Saad al-Hussein, a professor at King Saud University. “It’s normal.”
The clip has also received attention in US media, notably on conservative outlets like Fox News and the New York Post newspaper.