"I think that government said that they made a mistake. ... Listen, it's a serious mistake. We've made mistakes too, right, with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we're recovering from that mistake. I think that people make mistakes, it doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven. I think they've taken it seriously," Khosrowshahi told "Axios on HBO" in an interview aired on Sunday.
Khosrowshahi attempted to clarify his comments an hour after the interview and sent the following statement to Axios: "I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused."
Saudi Arabia is the ridesharing company's fifth biggest shareholder. The head of the country's Sovereign Wealth Fund, Yasir al-Rumayyan, is on Uber's board.
"I think he's been a very constructive board member, Yasir has. I personally have valued his input greatly," Khosrowshahi told Axios earlier in the interview. "From a Saudi perspective, they're just like any other shareholder now. We're a public company."
Khosrowshahi did not attend either the 2018 or 2019 Saudi investment conferences, and said he "didn't know" if he would have gone to the 2019 event had Uber's board meeting not presented a scheduling conflict.
The hashtag #BoycottUber was trending in the U.S. as of Monday morning.
Karen Attiah, Khashoggi's former editor at The Washington Post's Global Opinions section, said she was deleting her Uber app following Khosrowshahi's words.
"Uber's CEO is showing us what moral bankruptcy looks like in real time. This is the spiritual rot that ensues when profits are placed over lives," she wrote on Twitter on Monday.
"Jamal Khashoggi used Uber to get around in Washington/Virginia area. He didn't have a car for a while when he went into self exile [sic]. The sick and sad irony of Uber CEO [Dara Khosrowshahi] calling his murder by the Saudi regime a 'mistake'. That we should consider forgiveness. #BoycottUber," Attiah added.
Others shared online about their support for an Uber boycott.