Before my beloved #Eagles played in the Super Bowl, I was contacted by the Saudi Embassy and asked if I wanted to fly to/from Minnesota for the game with them and attend as their guest. I of course said NO. Ive never accepted anything like that. But I wondered: who said yes?
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 12, 2018
Saying no to these kinds of things is the first lesson they teach you in journalism school. You don’t take gifts or do trips or junkets. Even when you participate in something innocuous like the Sixers media basketball game, the jerseys and t-shirts and hats or whatever that they give you are supposed to be returned or passed off to fans instead.
I don’t think any beat writers really split hairs over this, and it’s not like a cheap piece of apparel is a huge deal, but that’s how it used to be taught in ethics class – you just don’t take anything from anyone, whether you’re covering news, politics, sports, or entertainment.
Anyway, it does make you wonder if the Saudis approached anyone else about a Super Bowl trip. Obviously they weren’t doing it for fun, it was an effort to win influence and/or blackmail journos like Tapper and whomever else was targeted. I’m 99.9% sure of this.
Interestingly, there was a “gigapixel” camera set up at the game last year, and there’s an interactive tool that allows you to zoom in on basically every seat and every suite inside the stadium. I have yet to locate the Saudis, but I did find the entire Philadelphia Inquirer contingent sitting in the press box:
I also found Brian Westbrook chilling on the sidelines:
There’s more to find here, so let’s get in there and see what we can discover.
(Of course the relevance here, and the reason Tapper is tweeting about this, is the death of Jamal Khashoggi, which you can read about by clicking on this link)