Obama Bow to Saudi King Labeled 'Shocking'
Wednesday, April 8, 2009 5:50 PM
By: Jim Meyers
In what's been called a "shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate," President Barack Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia at the Group of 20 summit meeting in London. "The bow was an extraordinary protocol violation," The Washington Times observed in an editorial on Tuesday. "Such an act is a traditional obeisance befitting a king's subjects, not his peer. There is no precedent for U.S. presidents bowing to Saudi or any other royals," the editorial said.
Obama offered King Abdullah a deep and prolonged bow from the waist when he met him at the summit, which brought together the leaders of the world’s largest economies on April 2. The story about Obama’s unusual gesture has gotten scant media coverage in the United States, but a Spanish TV broadcast was picked up on blogs and has created an Internet stir.
"No Americans of any station are required to bow to royalty," the Times stated. "It is one of the pillars of American exceptionalism that our country rejected traditional caste divisions." The Times editorial also opined that Obama’s bow "to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques does not help his image with those who believe he is secretly a Muslim, and why he chose to bow only to the Saudi king and not to any other royal remains unexplained." For instance, Obama did not bow to Queen Elizabeth when he first met her last week in London. Subjects of the crown may bow to the monarch but are not required to do so.
First lady Michelle Obama also broke protocol during the Obamas’ trip abroad when she put her hand on the queen’s back. The move caused a bit of tempest in the British press, but was quelled when the queen put her hand on Michelle in what a Buckingham Palace spokesman described as a "mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation."