Ahead of this weekend’s tournament, Trump has been promoting the event in interviews and public statements, encouraging golfers to join LIV Golf and disparaging the PGA Tour.
But while activists, media and others have expressed concern that LIV Golf lends international legitimacy to the ruling regime in Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of human rights abuses for years, Trump dismissed these criticisms.
During an interview with The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, he spoke approvingly of how the golf tour, which is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has already boosted the kingdom’s reputation.
“I think LIV has been good for Saudi Arabia, for Saudi Arabia’s image,” Trump told the Journal.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to questions from CNN.
Human rights and media groups have questioned LIV Golf organizers and players about the tour’s connection to Saudi Arabia. Many of those questions focused on the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
A US intelligence report released last year determined that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill the Saudi journalist, confirming reports shortly after the killing that the CIA had pulled the trigger. same conclusion. During his presidency, however, Trump publicly downplayed allegations that bin Salman was involved as his administration deepened US ties with the Saudis.
“Frankly, what they do for golf is great. What they do for the players is great,” the former president said.
Asked what he would say to the families of 9/11 victims protesting the LIV Golf event, Trump seemed to question whether there was any knowledge of Saudi involvement in the terror attacks.
“Nobody got to the bottom of the events of 9/11, unfortunately, and they should have, as to the maniacs who did this horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world,” he said. . “So nobody really went there. But I can tell you there are a lot of really great people here today.”
Following Trump’s remarks, Strada told CNN that the former president “knows full well it was the Kingdom. He did everything in his power to protect the kingdom during his tenure by reneging on the promise that he told the 9/11 families that he would declassify the FBI reports. Re: Saudi involvement in 9/11.”
Trump himself seems to appreciate the damage done to the PGA Tour, with which he has had a difficult relationship. While its clubs have held events for the PGA and other professional golf events in the past, the PGA Tour has not hosted an event at a Trump property since a March 2016 tournament in Doral. And after stripping Bedminster of the 2022 PGA Championship, the organization has been squarely in Trump’s sights.
This isn’t the first time Trump has spoken about professional sports since entering politics. During his presidency, he frequently criticized the National Football League for allowing players to protest during the national anthem. And last year, Trump joined other Republicans in calling on Americans to boycott Major League Baseball after the league moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta following a new election law in Georgia. .
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
CNN’s Jake Tapper contributed to this report.
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