Richard Branson Shows More Leadership Than Trump Does On Defending Democratic Freedoms [Opinion]

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Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson, made an appropriate and justified move this week when he decided his company could not do business with Saudi Arabia following the apparent murder of a prominent journalist who wrote critical op-eds against that nation’s policies.

“What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government,” a statement from Branson read, according to previous reporting from the Inquisitr. “We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr. Khashoggi.”

That move stands in stark contrast to what President Donald Trump said earlier today. Citing the ties between the United States and the Saudi royal family, Trump said he had concerns about Khashoggi’s death, but would not jeopardize dealings between the two nations in order to determine what exactly happened to the journalist.

“[A]s to whether we should stop $110b from being spent in this country… that would not be acceptable to me,” Trump said, according to other reporting from the Inquisitr.

Branson, for his own part, is losing out on around $1 billion in a deal he had previously made with the Saudi government. In doing so, he’s showing much more resolve than our president is on the issue.

We don’t really need to speculate any further about Khashoggi’s disappearance — it’s clear that Saudi officials wanted to capture him, as U.S. intelligence already knew about a plot to do so before he reached the consulate building in Istanbul, according to reporting from the BBC. What is less clear is why Trump isn’t willing to stand up to those foreign officials, to tell them that this type of treatment of journalists who dissent against the government cannot be deemed tolerable.

Or, perhaps, it is crystal clear why Trump is reluctant to take action — his own behavior toward the American press seems to signal that he, too, doesn’t like dissent among the media that covers him. He regularly admonishes the press, and has suggested that he would much prefer to lead a nation where people “sit up at attention” and show him respect when he speaks, as reporting from USA Today pointed out in June. It isn’t too far of a stretch to believe that his inaction is possibly due in part to his overall resentment of journalists.

Trump, of course, has not treated the press or dissidents the same way as some despots around the world have, and there are no signs that he plans to do so either. But his silence when those despots do act in undemocratic ways speaks volumes. When the president refuses to take action against those nations for killing or abducting journalists, it sends a loud message to the rest of the world about his uncaring attitudes toward the bedrock principles of freedom.

Branson seems more willing to take justified action against nations that would treat its citizens in such deplorable ways, risking his own business ventures in order to stand up for what is right. Sadly, the president of the United States, the individual who is meant to preserve and defend the tenets of democratic rights the most (both domestically and abroad), failed to show he was up for the task in his comments on Khashoggi this week. His demeanor and cowardice should not be soon forgotten.