During the question-and-answer session, journalist Sam Husseini aggressively questioned the prince about the monarchy’s rule, questioning the legitimacy of Saudi Arabia’s unelected leaders. At one point, the prince simply concluded that Saudi Arabia needs time to change, as the United States did not allow women to vote until 1910:
HUSSEINI: There’s been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime, I want to know what legitimacy your regime has sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture detention of activist, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does you regime have — other than billions of dollars and weapons? […]
TURKI: After how many years since the establishment of the United States did women get to vote in the United States? Does that mean that before they got the vote that United States was an illegitimate country? According to his definition, obviously. So, until, when was it — 1910 when women got to vote — from 1789 to 1910 United States was illegitimate? This is how you should measure things, by how people recognize their faults and try to overcome them.
HUSSEINI: So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward?
MODERATOR: Sam, that’s enough — this lady to the right, you’re next.
Shortly after the event, Husseini received an email from the Press Club informing him, “We are suspending your membership for two weeks, effective immediately, due to your conduct at a news conference held at the National Press Club.” It is alarming that the organization was so offended by Husseini’s aggressive questioning that they suspended his membership.
But it’s worth pointing out that Turki’s defense of his country’s record on women’s rights is logically flawed. Turki talked about how America slowly evolved to granting women rights. Yet America’s evolution not only occurred centuries in the past — and there is no reason to hold Saudi Arabia to such a standard — but also occurred democratically. Americans got together and decided that it was unfair for women to not have rights. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy where the general citizenry — unlike princes — gets little say over the laws. Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country, for example, where women are denied the right to drive. The state of womens rights in Saudi Arabia does not have to do with the slow evolution of Muslim or Arab thinking, it is about a monarchy deliberately imposing an oppressive philosophy on its people.
The Atlantic’s Max Fisher finds it more appropriate that a Saudi press club rather than an American one would ever suspend a journalist for aggressive questioning: