Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasts slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in his new book, questioning his journalistic credentials and criticizing what he calls sympathetic media coverage of his brutal murder at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
“He did not deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was, and many in the media were not,” Pompeo wrote in “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love.” NBC News obtained a copy of the book ahead of its January 24 release.
Pompeo, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, mocked Khashoggi’s portrayal in the media as «a Bob Woodward of Saudi Arabia who was martyred for courageously criticizing the Saudi royal family through his Washington Post op-eds.» .
Pompeo, who also served as CIA director in the Trump administration, described Khashoggi as an «activist,» stating that he was a journalist only «to the extent that I and many other public figures are journalists.» Sometimes we publish our writings, but we also do other things.”
Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing on October 2, 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His disappearance sparked international intrigue and then outrage, when a Turkish prosecutor announced that Khashoggi had been strangled or asphyxiated, dismembered and mutilated.
Washington Post editor and CEO Fred Ryan called Pompeo’s characterizations of Khashoggi «shocking and disappointing.»
“His only crime was exposing corruption and oppression among those in power, work that good journalists around the world do every day,” Ryan said in a statement Tuesday, adding: “It is shameful that Pompeo spreads vile falsehoods to dishonor a brave man’s life and service, and his commitment to the principles Americans hold dear, as a ploy to sell books.»
Pompeo also tried to question Khashoggi’s loyalties in his book.
“And as even the New York Times reported, Khashoggi was comfortable with the Muslim Brotherhood supporting terrorists,” Pompeo wrote. Pompeo referred to Khashoggi’s public mourning for Osama bin Laden following the assassination by the United States of the founder of Al Qaeda.
“Jamal Kashoggi is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood. I confirm it for you,» Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, told NBC News on Monday.
She said her husband had a nuanced view of the Muslim Brotherhood, with which he had closest ties in his youth. She said that he would condemn her actions in some countries and appreciate it in others. She believed that, as a journalist, he needed to be close to an ideology to talk about it.
She also said her husband «always condemned» the 9/11 attack and believed the Saudis were «the biggest losers from 9/11» because it made them look like they «didn’t have a tolerant nation.»
whatever he [Pompeo] mentions about my husband, he doesn’t know my husband. He should keep quiet and shut up the lies about my husband.
Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, widow of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Pompeo also wrote that while Khashoggi’s brutal murder was «ugly,» it was not «surprising» to him because it was the kind of behavior he expected from the Middle East.
“I had seen enough of the Middle East to know that this kind of cruelty was too routine in that part of the world,” he wrote.
In 2018, Pompeo, as secretary of state, said Khashoggi’s murder «violates the norms of international law,» while highlighting a «strategic» relationship with Saudi Arabia.
In 2020, Khashoggi’s family sued Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accusing him of personally ordering Khashoggi’s brutal execution. Last year, President Joe Biden’s administration said he believed the crown prince should be protected from lawsuits in US courts because of his high position. The State Department noted that this was purely a «legal determination» and «has no opinion on the merits of this lawsuit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.»
Pompeo’s new book comes as he considers a run for the White House. pompeo has said that a candidacy by former President Donald Trump in 2024 would not deter his own candidacy.
Hanan Elatr Khashoggi said she is desperate «to silence all these people who publish books, put down my husband and raise money.»
«Whatever he [Pompeo] mentions about my husband, he doesn’t know my husband. He should keep quiet and shut up the lies about my husband,” he said. “It is such bad information and the wrong information. … This is not acceptable.»
CORRECTION (January 24, 2023, 2:31 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misrepresented an instance in which Khashoggi was killed. It was at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Not in Saudi Arabia. (A previous correction mistakenly said embassy instead of consulate.)