The comedian Hasan Minhaj called out White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on Tuesday night for his ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, remarking that someone in Kushner's position should use his power to urge Saudi Arabia to release the jailed activist Loujain al-Hathloul.
“I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here, and it would be crazy if there was a high-ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, 'Hey, maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it?'” Minhaj said during a toast at a Time magazine gala in New York City.
Al-Hathloul is in prison after campaigning to earn Saudi women the right to drive. Along with Minhaj and Kushner, she was named to Time's list of the world's 100 most influential people this month.
Kushner was given responsibility within the Trump administration for Israel-Palestinian policy two years ago, but has still not provided concrete details of U.S. efforts. In February, Kushner met with the crown prince for the first time since the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October. It's not clear if the two discussed Khashoggi.
Minhaj has been openly critical of Saudi Arabia in the past, most recently in a 2018 episode of his Netflix show "Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj" in which he criticized the kingdom's rulers after Khashoggi's murder. In January, Saudi authorities filed a complain that led Netflix to remove the episode from its platform in the country.
The episode, which is still available on Netflix outside of Saudi Arabia and on YouTube, was cited as one of the reasons "Patriot Act" won a Peabody Award earlier this month.
"A lot of times, we as comedians, we get a lot of credit," Minhaj added during his toast. "People come up to us and they go, 'Thank you so much for pointing a light on that issue.' That's all we're doing. We're pointing. And I just want to say thank you to Loujain for being the light."
After the gala, Minhaj told Time his request aimed at Kushner was sincere.
“I was just hoping he could send a WhatsApp message,” he said, adding that it could say: "Hey, this person has been fighting for civil liberties for all people. Maybe you should let them out of prison.”
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