Former President Donald Trump told The Wall Street Journal that LIV Golf has been great for Saudi Arabia's image, and he deflected criticism surrounding 9/11 and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi that has been aimed at the new league.
Trump spoke with WSJ as his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, prepared to host LIV Golf’s third event. The new league is financially backed by the Saudis.
Families of 9/11 victims are planning to protest the event, which will be held this weekend about an hour away from ground zero. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia.
"I don’t know much about the 9/11 families, I don’t know what is the relationship to this, and their very strong feelings, and I can understand their feelings," Trump told WSJ on Monday. "I can’t really comment on that because I don’t know exactly what they’re saying, and what they’re saying who did what."
A group of family members of 9/11 victims has sought the cancellation of this week’s LIV Golf tournament. According to The Washington Post, the group last week wrote a letter to the former president requesting his club not host the event.
Trump also told WSJ that he thinks the controversy around the killing of Khashoggi has "totally died down."
Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist, dissident and author, was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by agents of the Saudi government, allegedly at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
"I can say that from the standpoint of Khashoggi, that has died down so much," Trump told WSJ. "It really seems to have totally died down.
"Nobody has asked me that question in months."
LIV Golf has been slammed for its connection to Saudi Arabia and for luring PGA Tour players by offering megamillion-dollar deals. Star players such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson are among those to join the new league.
Trump told WSJ that LIV Golf has been "worth billions of dollars" in publicity for Saudi Arabia.
"I think LIV has been a great thing for Saudi Arabia, for the image of Saudi Arabia," Trump told WSJ. "I think it's going to be an incredible investment from that standpoint, and that’s more valuable than lots of other things because you can’t buy that — even with billions of dollars.
"I do think that the publicity that they've gotten, more than anything, has been a great thing for them. I think the publicity they’ve gotten is worth billions of dollars. It's one of the hottest things to have happened in sports, and sports is a big part of life."
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