IMPACT: On March 13, 2018, President Trump announced that Mike Pompeo (current CIA Director) would replace Rex Tillerson as U.S. Secretary of State. Pompeo has connections with anti-Muslim groups, including Center for Security Policy and ACT for America. Pompeo has stated that Muslim leaders may be complicit in terrorist attacks for not sufficiently condemning them, and as a Member of Congress he co-sponsored legislation to criminalize Muslims and Muslim organizations in the U.S.
Mike Pompeo is the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), nominated by President Donald Trump. He was previously a Congressman for the 4th district of Kansas (2011-2017). On March 13, 2018, President Trump announced his plans to nominate Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, replacing Rex Tillerson.
Pompeo was elected a Tea Party Republican. Critics argue that the Tea Party “stigmatize[s] Muslims and seek[s] confrontation with Islam.” The Center for American Progress (CAP) lists the Tea Party as a “grassroots organization” in the “Islamophobia Network.”
Amid a concerted effort from anti-Muslim groups to engender fear about sharia, Pompeo co-sponsored congressional legislation in 2014 and 2015 to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization. Critics argue that such tactics “contribute to Islamophobia and infringe on American Muslims’ right to religious freedom.” Others argue that they criminalize, harass and intimidate American Muslim individuals and organizations.
In May 2016, Pompeo appeared on Secure Freedom Radio — a project of Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy (CSP) — and stated, on this subject, “We don’t have to say that all Muslims are bad. But…we’re going to have to have a broader approach in order to keep Americans safe.” Gaffney has described Pompeo as “one of the most intelligent men I know in public life.”
From 2014 to 2016, Pompeo appeared 18 times on CSP’s Secure Freedom Radio. In February 2015, Pompeo spoke at an invitation-only roundtable discussion organized by CSP, along with 35 other “distinguished counter-jihadists,” including Nonie Darwish, Andrew McCarthy, Sen. Ted Cruz, Geert Wilders, Zuhdi Jasser, Clare Lopez, David Yerushalmi, David Muise and Rep. Steve King.
In June 2013, two months after the Boston Marathon bombing, Pompeo delivered remarks in the House of Representatives, stating that “silence [in condemning these acts] has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit.” Muslim groups and others criticize this claim that Muslims should do more to condemn terrorism, saying that this narrative overlooks both the fact that Muslims do condemn terrorism, and that they shouldn’t have to.
During his 2013 remarks, Pompeo also commended Zuhdi Jasser, a self-described “Muslim Reformer.” The Center for American Progress (CAP) lists Jasser as an “anti-Muslim validator” in the “Islamophobia Network.”
According to ACT for America’s Brigitte Gabriel, Pompeo “has been a steadfast ally of [ACT for America] since the day he was elected to Congress.” Pompeo was awarded ACT’s “highest honor,” the National Security Eagle Award for 2016. That same year, Pompeo sponsored the room at the U.S. Capitol for ACT’s “Legislative Briefing” in conjunction with its annual national conference. Pompeo spoke at these briefings in 2016, 2015 and 2013.
While Pompeo has cautioned against equating Islam with terrorism, critics argue that Pompeo’s rhetoric and positions contribute broadly to a “clash of civilizations” between the West and Islam narrative — a common anti-Muslim trope.
In 2014, during a speech to a church group in Wichita, Pompeo said, “This threat to America” is from a “minority within the Muslim faith” who “will continue to press against us [Christians] until we…make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world [sic].” At another Kansas church in in June 2015, Pompeo stated that “we are engaged in a struggle against radical Islam” and that “this evil is all around us.”
In March 2016, Pompeo released a statement criticizing the Islamic Society of Wichita for inviting a speaker who he alleged was connected to Hamas, which the United States has designated as a terrorist group. Claiming American Muslim groups have associations to terrorist groups is a smear tactic and historical oversimplification that journalists and academics have criticized and debunked. Pompeo called on event to be cancelled and said that he was “disappointed and disturbed” by the timing of the Muslim group’s event — which fell on Good Friday.
When asked by the Senate confirmation committee in January 2017 about permitting waterboarding and other forms of torture, Pompeo responded “absolutely not.” But in post hearing responses to lawmakers, journalists pointed out that Pompeo backtracked.
Pompeo claims Guantánamo Bay “has been a goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism.” The 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Study on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program found that torture was not an “accurate means of acquiring intelligence” or “accurate information.”
Last updated March 13, 2018