Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) absolutely destroyed Mike Pompeo during his confirmation hearing Thursday — taking him to task for his bigotry towards Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community.
“I want to talk about many of your past statements concerning Muslim Americans,” Booker began. “I want to start with some of your language. In a speech you talked about folks who worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. You sort of mourned that we live in a country where that happens. Do you have any views that the Muslim faith or people who believe in worshiping ‘other gods,’ is that just something negative in our country?”
Pompeo said he didn’t believe this, and pointed to his record of working with Muslim leaders and Muslim countries — basically the equivalent of arguing that “I’m not racist because I have a black friend.”
But Booker was undeterred.
Booker asked Pompeo about his view that a special obligation falls on Muslims to condemn attacks by others of Muslim faith. He famously criticized Muslim leaders for their “silence” — he made this silence up — after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“You said people who are silent are complicit in those terrorist attacks,” Booker said. “Do you think that Muslim Americans in this country who serve in our military, who serve in the State department, their failure to speak up, is that — are they complicit in terrorist attacks?”
Pompeo said that “each and every human” should condemn violence, but after Booker pressed him on whether he was creating a “special obligation” for Muslims, Pompeo admitted that he considers them differently.
Pompeo: I also do believe this firmly, that for certain places, for certain forms of violence, there are [folks] who are more credible, more trustworthy who have a more shared experience. And so when it comes to, when it comes to making sure that we don’t have a terrorist brewing in places where Muslims congregate, there’s a special place, right? They have a, they have a — It’s more than a duty, more than a requirement. It’s an opportunity, right, to be treated as — when someone from another faith says it, it can get characterized —
Booker: If I can go on, because I have 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?”
Pompeo: I don’t see it — it’s not an obligation, it’s an opportunity, senator.
Booker said he agreed with Pompeo that it’s important to “speak in the face of injustice” and asked about his support for key Islamophobic figures.
“[Gaffney] has talked about Muslims who abide by the adherence of their faith should be considered to be tried for acts of sedition and should be prosecuted,” Booker said. “Did you remain silent when you were on his show? Because I have a lot of his statements here. Did you remain silent? And from my notes, at least, you’re a friend of his. Were you silent in your position of authority in these words that be violative of the American constitution?”
“Sir, my record on this is unambiguous,” Pompeo replied.
“Sir, then if that’s your response, you did not say anything to call out his remarks.”
Frank Gaffney is an infamous Islamophobe who has called his political rivals members of the Muslim Brotherhood, called Obama a Muslim, said the United States is succumbing to shariah law, and spread countless other conspiracy theories.
Pompeo similarly couldn’t clarify whether he has disavowed Bridgette Gabriel, who, as Booker pointed out, runs an organization that’s considered an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But Booker didn’t stop there. He moved on to Pompeo’s bigoted record on LGBTQ rights.
“Is being gay a perversion?” Booker asked.
“Senator, when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry,” Pompeo said. “I stand by that.”
“So, you do not believe it’s appropriate for two gay people to marry?
“Senator, I continue to hold that view,” Pompeo simply said.
Pompeo refused to clarify whether he believes gay sex is a perversion.
“I will conclude by saying, sir, you’re going to be Secretary of state of the United States at a time that we have an increase in hate speech and hate actions against Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Indian Americans, hate acts are on the increase in our nation,” Booker concluded. “You’re going to be representing this country and their values abroad in nations where gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence.”
Pompeo’s personal views about Muslims and about the LGBTQ community will undoubtedly have a real effect in the way he leads foreign policy under the Trump administration and how he leads the department.
Former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, for example, took huge steps to recognize LGBTQ rights. It became easier for transgender people to change their passport to reflect their gender, the United States began accepting visa applications for same-sex couples, and the State Department more generally fought for the rights of LGBTQ foreign service officers.