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As Saudi Arabia denies it had anything to do with the sudden disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of its government, and pressure from the West intensifies to find out what happened, John Oliver took the WWE to task on Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight for its close relationship with the nation.
The host discussed the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia and said that it is based on “strategic interest. Not shared values.” He said that due to the interest, America has “conveniently turned a blind eye to a lot of things,” including human rights abuses and the funding of religious extremism.
Oliver brought up the recent 10-year pact that the wrestling organization signed with the Saudi General Sports Authority. The first event held there was April’s Greatest Royal Rumble, with the second being the Crown Jewel set for Nov. 2 at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which will include the inaugural WWE World Cup tournament “to determine the best in the world,” according to the organization’s website.
He noted that Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, also known as MBS, has been painted by American media outlets as a “progressive voice for the country.” Some of his actions have included introducing cinema to the country and giving women more rights.
“I will note that one of the very first movies they showed there was, and this is true, The Emoji Movie, which in hindsight is actually how it was always supposed to be seen,” said Oliver. “By a group of people who had never seen a good movie to compare it to.”
Oliver explained the MBS went on a world tour to ensure investors that Saudi Arabia is “stable and progressive.”
Referring to the prince, Oliver said: “MBS’ PR push isn’t just toward attracting businesses. It’s also toward changing the world’s perception of Saudi Arabia. To that end, he struck a 10-year deal with one of the most popular and most American franchises there is — World Wresting Entertainment, or WWE. They held their first of many events there back in April, and audiences around the world were treated to wall-to-wall propaganda about the new Saudi Arabia, including video showing women happily driving, men dancing and tourist destination beauty shots, as well as constant excited compliments throughout the broadcast.”
Oliver then showed multiple clips of WWE events taking place in Saudi Arabia and WWE host commentary praising the nation, concluding with footage of wrestling star John Cena thanking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Oliver said: “Wow. It seems the WWE is as overtly pro-Saudi Arabia as it is lately homoerotic, which is to say, intensely.”
On Friday, amid pressure and criticism over the deal, WWE said in a statement that “we are currently monitoring the situation.”
Said Oliver: “As for the WWE, while they say they are monitoring the situation, their gigantic Crown Jewel event is still scheduled for November, meaning John Cena could well be back there [praising Saudi Arabia again], which I guess in this context means you don’t see these human rights abuses right here,” Oliver said as he waved his hand in front of his face.
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