Fox Business Network has become the latest media partner to pull out of the Saudi Arabia-backed Future Investment Initiative, the international conference featuring world business leaders that is scheduled to run October 23-25 in Riyadh. The confab hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has seen a slew of its committed participants withdraw amid the ongoing controversy over the disappearance and apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The move from FBN comes the same day U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted that he was pulling out of the event, and as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from a diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia to get answers on Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering the Saudi embassy in Turkey on October 2.
“Fox Business Network has canceled its sponsorship and participation in the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia,” the network said in a statement. “We continue to seek an interview with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.” A network source told Deadline that FBN’s Maria Bartiromo, who had been scheduled to attend, is not going unless “an opportunity for an unrestricted interview with the Crown Prince comes through.”
Mnuchin was among those under increased pressure to pull out of the conference as various U.S. organizations yanked sponsorship and participation of the conference launched last year by MBS. CNN, Bloomberg, the New York Times, CNBC and the Financial Times, as well as Economist editor in chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong are among those who have de-committed to the event, known as “Davos in the Desert.”
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which sponsors the event, took a minority stake in Deadline and Variety owner PMC earlier this year for a reported $200 million.