Trump’s pick for a new secretary of state, CIA director Mike Pompeo, struggled under a string of questions on minority rights in his confirmation hearing today. The exchange culminated with Pompeo refusing to say whether he still stood behind his own past implication that homosexuality is a “perversion.”
In response to Democratic senator Cory Booker, Pompeo said he didn’t support gay marriage but that he treated married gay people at the CIA in “the exact same way as everyone else.” Asked repeatedly if he believed that “gay sex is a perversion,” Pompeo refused to answer the question, saying, his “respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same.”
Booker was referring to a 2015 rally in Georgia where Pompeo quoted a Christian religious leader who decried Americans as having “worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism and…endorsed perversion and called it an ‘alternative lifestyle'” (at 4:20).
As secretary of state, Pompeo would represent the United States and its interests abroad, and the state department is responsible for the protection of US citizens around the world. Protection of gay rights, and assistance to refugees from countries where homosexuality is a criminalized, has been part of the agency’s work in recent years. In his hearing, Pompeo later said, “I deeply believe that LGBTQ persons have every right that every other person in the world would have.”
Further questioned about a previous assertion (paywall) that “silence” has made “Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit” in acts of terrorism, Pompeo clarified that he saw speaking out as an “opportunity” not an “obligation.”
Booker followed up by asking if Pompeo had taken such an opportunity to condemn conspiracist Frank Gaffney’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. Pompeo appeared more than 20 times on his show between 2013 and 2016. Pompeo didn’t answer the question, only saying that his record was “unambiguous” on the matter. His response was similar when asked if he had condemned other anti-Muslim groups with which Pompeo has been associated.