Washington, D.C. – During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) questioned Pompeo about his past statements targeting Muslim and LGBTQ Americans.
Cory Booker (CB): I want to pick up on one of the themes we talked at length about and that involves many of your past statements concerning Muslim Americans.
CB: Perhaps I just want to start with some of your language – in a speech you talked about folks who “worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.” You mourned that we live in a country where that happens. Do you have any views of the Muslim faith or people who believe in worshipping quote-unquote other gods, is that something negative in our country?
Mike Pompeo (MP): No senator, you can look at my record, you don’t have to take my word for it here today –my record is exquisite with respect to treating people of each and every faith with the dignity they deserve to protect the right to practice their religion or no religion for that matter in the way that they want to. [Crosstalk] I’ve heard these critiques – I’ve worked closely with Muslim leaders, with Muslim countries…the CIA has saved countless, thousands of Muslim lives during my 15 months… this is at the core of who I am Senator Booker. I promise you I will treat persons of each faith or no faith with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
CB: Your words right now are really encouraging, words do matter, it’s not just actions. In a nation where you see too much bigotry you and I both know words matter. So I do understand your actions and I will stipulate to the actions you just said. But I want to get to the bottom of people who are going to be reading your past statements and give you a chance to further explain them.
CB: I woudl like to go back to what we talked about you and I – this idea that “a special obligation falls on Muslims” in regards to terrorist attacks in our country and you said something very dramatic. And I know you know this. You said that people who are silent are complicit in those terrorist attacks. Do you think that Muslim Americans in this country – who serve in the military, who serve in the State Department – their failure to speak up, are they complicit in terrorist attacks?
MP: Senator each and every human, not just Americans, has an obligation to push back against this extremist use of violence, from whatever faith.
CB: So you don’t create a special class of people in this country based upon their religion that have a special obligation as you said to condemn terrorist attacks?
MP: No senator, having said that, and you and I had a chance to discuss this yesterday and I’m not sure we ended up completely agreeing, but perhaps we did, I also do believe this firmly: that for certain places for certain forms of violence there are certain [people] who are better positioned, folks who are more credible, more trustworthy have a more shared experience. So when it comes to making sure we don’t have terrorists brewing in places where Muslims congregate, there’s a special place, right? They have a, it’s more than than a duty it’s an opportunity, to be treated as, when someone of another faith says it...
CB: So if I can go on because I have some more questions… So you think that Muslims in America who are in positions of leadership have a different category of obligation because of their religion, that’s what I’m hearing you saying.
MP: It’s not an obligation it’s an opportunity, senator.
CB: It’s interesting because I would agree with you, that silence in the face of injustice – we’ve seen this in the Holocaust, we’ve seen this in the Civil Rights Movement – I do agree with you silence in the face of injustice lends strength to that injustice. I do have a problem though when you start creating, dicing up American people and saying certain Americans – I don’t care if its Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Muslims that serve on my staff, that they’re in positions of leadership, that suddenly have a special obligation. I do believe, though, all of us when it comes to violent actions or words have an obligation. So I’m wondering, sir, do you know Frank Gafney?
MP: Yes I do.
CB: And you’ve been on his show dozens of times.
MP: I was on his show some, yes Senator.
CB: I have here over 20 times. And he’s talked about Muslims who abide by the adherence of their faith should be tried for acts of sedition and should be prosecuted. Did you remain silent when you were on his show? Did you ever question? Because I have a lot of his statements here. Did you remain silent, and from my notes at least he’s a friend of yours, were you silent in your position of authority against these words that are violative of the American Constitution? Were you silent with him?
MP: My record is unambiguous.
CB: If that’s your response, you did not say anything to call out his remarks. What about Bridget Gabriel, do you know her?
MP: I do.
CB: Someone who has been, who runs an organization that has been considered a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Were you silent? Did you ever call her out on her remarks are that are hateful and bigoted?
MP: Senator I’ve spoken to a number of grounds, and I believe my record with respect to tolerance and the equal treatment of people is –
CB: Yes or no, did you ever call her out?
MP: Senator I couldn’t tell you, I don’t recall each statement I’ve made over 54 years.
CB: OK, well I believe the special obligation that you talk about for Americans to condemn things that are attacking their Constitution or ideals would obligate you in your own definition to speak out.
MP: Senator, if I might, I have called out… we had a terrible fellow in Kansas called Fred Phelps, and I called him out…
CB: Sir, I have a minute left, because I do want to give you a chance to speak about your comments about gays and lesbians. You said in a speech, that, mourning an America that “endorses a perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle” – those are your words. Is being gay a perversion?
MP: Senator, when I was a politician I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same sex persons to marry. I stand by that.
CB: So you don’t think it’s appropriate for two gay people to marry?
MP: Senator I continue to hold that view, it’s the same view for the record…
CB: And so people in the State Department that are married under your leadership – you don’t believe that that should be allowed?
MP: We have, I believe it’s the case that we have married gay couples at the CIA. I treated them with the exact same set of rights –
CB: Do you believe gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no? [Crosstalk] Because that’s what you said here in one of your speeches.
MP: Senator I’m going to give you the same answer here that I gave you previously. My respect for every individual regardless of their sexual orientation is the same, and it will continue to be so if I am confirmed.
CB: So I will conclude by saying, you’re going to be Secretary of State of the United States at a time when we have increase in hate speech and hate actions against Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Indian Americans – hate acts are on the increase in our nation. You’re going to representing this country and its values abroad in nations where gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence. Your views do matter, you’re going to be dealing with Muslim states and on Muslim issues and I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forward the values of our nation when you believe that there are people in this country who are perverse and where you think that you create different categories of Americans and their obligations when it comes to condemning violence. So I’ll have another round but thank you.