US, Turkey Deny Anonymously-Sourced ‘Fake News’ ABC Report on Khashoggi

By Zachary Stieber

The United States and Turkey have both denied an anonymously sourced ABC report on missing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, with President Donald Trump weighing in and calling it “fake news.”

Much of the reporting on Khashoggi, who was allegedly last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, has relied on anonymous officials, often Turkish ones, and Turkish state-run media. One source was revealed to be an al-Qaeda- and Hamas-linked operative who is serving a prison sentence in the United States.

In addition, the Turkish government has long been slammed by human rights groups for the dismal record of its treatment of Turkish citizens and journalists.

ABC’s report on Oct. 18 claimed, citing an anonymous Turkish source, that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been given a transcript of an audio recording that purportedly recorded Khashoggi’s slaying. The anonymous source also claimed that a Turkish official played the audio for Pompeo.

“I’ve heard no tape, I’ve seen no transcript. And the network that reported that ought to pull down the headline that says I have,” Pompeo told reporters as he traveled to Mexico.

“This is wrong to the fiance of Khashoggi, we should be factual when we report things about that. This is a very serious matter that we’re working diligently on, and so to put out headlines that are factually false does no one any good. It’s most constructive when the media tells the truth.”

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, also said on Oct. 19 that his country hasn’t shared any audio recordings with any United States officials, reported the state-run Anadolu Agency.

President Donald Trump added later on Friday, “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was never given or shown a Transcript or Video of the Saudi Consulate event. FAKE NEWS!”

Pompeo meets Saudi king on Khashoggi case
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Oct. 16, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Waiting for Results

While a number of news agencies have tried advancing the story through anonymous sources and state-run media, American officials have urged reporters to exercise caution, saying they won’t prejudge the result of the probe into Khashoggi’s presumed death, which is being investigated by both Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo flew to Saudi Arabia and met with officials there on Oct. 16 before traveling to Turkey the next day to meet with Turkish officials to discuss the ongoing probe.

Back in the United States, he spoke with President Donald Trump on Oct. 18 and told him the administration should give the two countries time to finish the investigation.

“We made clear to them that we take this matter very seriously,” Pompeo told reporters. “They assured me that they will conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”

“I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that so we can get a complete understanding [of] the facts surrounding that,” he added.