Tom Barrack, American private equity investor and chairman of Colony Capital, issued an apology after saying the U.S. had committed "equal or worse" atrocities than the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Speaking to an audience while at the Milken Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi this week, Barrack, who has spent some four decades doing business in Saudi Arabia, refuted criticism of the kingdom for its role in the murder of the Saudi journalist, which Riyadh has blamed on "rogue" government operatives.
Asked at the CNN-hosted panel about the damage done to Saudi Arabia's international reputation, Barrack replied, "whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse, to the atrocities in Saudi Arabia."
The real estate investor, a close friend of President Donald Trump, said that the "problem" with the killing of Khashoggi was "the same problem with the West misunderstanding the East."
Critics took to Twitter to express their alarm over the chairman's statements. Kristian Ulrichsen, a Chatham House fellow and expert on the Gulf region at Texas's Rice University, called the comments "jaw-dropping."
Barrack issued an apology on Wednesday, calling the Khashoggi killing "atrocious and inexcusable."
"I apologize for not making this clear in my comments earlier this week," he said in a statement, immediately adding, "I feel strongly that the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom."
He asserted that "rule of law and monarchies across the Middle East are confusing to the West" and that "support for change and rule of law is essential as the agony of great change take place."
In response to anger over his comments about American atrocities, he wrote, "I love American and am myself a product of American freedom … I have always believed and continue to believe that America is the greatest country in the world."
Barrack, who also served as a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Middle East real estate. Colony Capital manages $44 billion worth of assets worldwide, according to its website.