Comedian Hasan Minhaj singled out White House advisor Jared Kushner at the 2019 Time 100 gala, urging him to use his clout with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to free detained women’s rights activist Loujain Hathloul.
The “Patriot Act” host was among the many honorees at the glitzy gala at the Lincoln Center in New York on Tuesday, and when it was his turn to take the mic he used it to “point a light” at those “on the front lines.”
Hathloul, like Minhaj, is also one of Time’s 2019 100 most influential people but but couldn’t attend the gala because she was imprisoned for working to lift the driving ban on Saudi women. Though women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to drive in June 2018, Hathloul remains behind bars.
“This is a very powerful room,” Minhaj said. “I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here and it’d be crazy if, I don’t know, if there was like a high-ranking official in the White House who could WhatsApp MBS and say, maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it.
“But that person would have to be in the room,” Minhaj conceded. “It’s just a good comedy premise.”
Kushner did attend the event.
Hathloul has been detained since May and stated on Twitter that she and other female activists are being pressured to remain silent about their arrests and claims of torture, according to the Associated Press.
She is among nearly a dozen women being tried on charges related to their activism, which also included calling for an end to guardianship laws that give men final say over a woman's right to marry or travel abroad.
The comedian’s remarks on Tuesday came on the same day that Saudi Arabia said it beheaded 37 Saudi citizens in a mass execution across the country over what it said were terrorism-related crimes, the AP reported. It publicly pinned one man’s body and severed head to a pole as a warning to others.
At the gala, the Indian American host said that he was lucky to live in a country that afforded him the right to “make jokes about powerful leaders.” In January, an episode of his Netflix series that criticized the kingdom’s conflicting explanations of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was yanked in Saudi Arabia to comply with local laws. But the former “Daily Show” correspondent reminded viewers it was still available on YouTube.