Fox News correspondent Brett Baier promised to ask Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about a series of controversies in the king’s first interview on US television since 2019, which will air on Wednesday. The “Special Report” host’s interview with the controversial head of state comes after a week of interviews with various Saudi government and business leaders.
Earlier this week Baier spoke with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Alabrihim, Minister of Sports Abdulaziz bin Turki, Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb.
Baier’s interviews open up a closer look at present-day Saudi Arabia — a country that has courted its share of controversy in recent years, particularly the crown prince’s alleged role in the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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“There are many things to ask him,” Bayer said, adding that the ministers said they had “no time” for the controversy but acknowledged a very real and heavy backlash they felt.
His discussions with ministers touched on various aspects of Saudi culture and the government’s vision for the future – in a country undergoing significant transformation as it seeks to modernize.
Norman Roule, a former senior intelligence official who worked for both the CIA and ODNI, told Baier that women have experienced a significant expansion of rights in the country in recent years, which includes sending a female astronaut to launch from US earlier this year and increasing participation in business ownership.
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“A few years ago women in Saudi Arabia could not drive,” noted Roule. “Their ambassador to the United States is a formidable diplomat, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bin Bandar – daughter of a famous Saudi diplomat.”
“I see a country that has undergone tectonic changes on a scale, pace and degree that no country in modern times has seen,” he added. “These changes were positive.”
Lina al Maeena, a business owner in Jeddah, said the transformation she has seen has been “shock therapy” for Saudi society: Any change would normally take place over “decades”, but al Maeena claims the country has “overcome … so many of our goals.”
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Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Economy and Planning Alabrihim explained that the country has invested in every sector and level of society to try to move it forward as part of Vision 2030, a “planning of where we want to be and how we will get there.”
“It is designed to address our long-term economic challenges and risks through three things: diversifying the economy, empowering the kingdom’s youth and building institutions that can help achieve this beyond 2030 and beyond,” Alabrihim said .
The most globally notable and most recently discussed aspect of this plan centers on sport – particularly Saudi Arabia’s high-budget acquisition of talent from across Europe, including the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.
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The Public Investment Fund, run by the Saudi royal family, has also bought sports teams such as England’s Newcastle United, which went from 11th out of 20 teams in 2022 to top 4th in 2023 and won a prestigious in the Champions League after the change of ownership.
Bayer raised the issue with Sports Minister Bin Turki, noting that many accuse Saudi Arabia of trying to use sports to boost their reputation – a process known as “sportswashing”.
Bin Turki said the investment has already paid off with increased participation in sports across the country and that the government wants the country’s children to “grow up loving these sports”.
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“Even our national teams in 2017, we had 32 federations. Today we have 97 federations in different sports and different activities,” he said, highlighting the improved performance of the Saudi Arabian team in recent years.
Brett Baier’s interview with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will air Wednesday at 6 p.m. EDT on Fox News Channel.