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Pompeo’s Revealing Meltdown

We saw how Mike Pompeo made a fool of himself on Friday with his angry tirade against Mary Louise Kelly, a reporter for NPR. That outburst came after an interview that he cut short in which he was asked legitimate questions that he could not answer. His response to the report about this was to malign the reporter with bizarre lies in what could be the most unhinged statement ever sent out by an American Secretary of State:

Pompeo’s accusatory statement confirmed the substance of what Kelly had reported, and absolutely no one believes him when he says that she lied to him. All of the available evidence supports Kelly’s account, and nothing supports Pompeo’s:

On the program, Ms. Kelly said Katie Martin, an aide to Mr. Pompeo who has worked in press relations, never asked for that conversation to be kept off the record, nor would she have agreed to do that.

Mr. Pompeo’s statement did not deny Ms. Kelly’s account of obscenities and shouting. NPR said Saturday that Ms. Kelly “has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report.” On Sunday, The New York Times obtained emails between Ms. Kelly and Ms. Martin that showed Ms. Kelly explicitly said the day before the interview that she would start with Iran and then ask about Ukraine. “I never agree to take anything off the table,” she wrote.

It is the new definition of chutzpah for Pompeo to accuse someone else of lying and lack of integrity, since he has been daily shredding his credibility by making things up about non-existent U.S. policy successes and telling easily refuted lies aboutNorth Korea, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. We have good reason to believe that the recent claim that there was an “imminent attack” from Iran earlier this month was another one of those lies. For her part, Kelly has a reputation for solid and reliable reporting, and no one thinks that she would do the things he accuses her of doing. Pompeo’s dig at the end is meant to imply that she misidentified Ukraine on the blank map that he had brought in to test her. No one believes that claim, either. This is another preposterous lie that tells us that his version of events can’t be true. Pompeo has been waging a war on the truth for the last year and a half, and this is just the most recent assault. The Secretary’s meltdown this weekend has been useful in making it impossible to ignore this any longer.

All of this is appalling, unprofessional behavior from any government official, and in a sane administration this conduct along with his other false and misleading statements would be grounds for resignation. When Pompeo publicly attacks a journalist for doing her job and impugns her integrity to cover up for the fact that he doesn’t have any, he is attacking the press and undermining public accountability. He is also undermining the department’s advocacy for freedom of the press when he tries to intimidate journalists with his obnoxious outbursts. Pompeo already alienated and disgusted people in his department with his failure to come to the defense of officials that were being publicly attacked and smeared, and this latest display has further embarrassed them. We need a Secretary of State who isn’t a serial liar, and right now we don’t have one.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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