Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Politico in a lengthy statement ahead of a profile the outlet published on his wife, Susan, and her role as a spouse to one of the United States’ top officials.
The piece, titled “State Department Insiders Ask: What Is Susan Pompeo Really Up To?” was published on Thursday morning and describes Susan’s hands-on approach in her husband’s political career. The alleged extent of her involvement has at times frustrated staff in her husband’s various positions in federal office. Others who have worked with the Pompeos have lauded her attention to detail and commitment to building and maintaining relationships.
In one anecdote featured at the beginning of Politico’s article, it’s alleged that Jakob Provo, who worked for Mike Pompeo when he was a U.S. congressman from Kansas, was called back for a second interview when applying for the job because Susan noticed a typo in his cover letter. He was reportedly asked by an aide how he would handle a situation in which the congressman himself pointed out a typo.
“She was using that as a way of questioning my character and dedication,” Provo said. “The whole time I felt like I was being interrogated over one small mistake.”
The article follows Susan’s role through each of her husband’s positions in Washington, from Kansas representative to head of the CIA to his current position as Secretary of the State Department. At his current role, she has taken the lead on connecting with U.S. ambassadors and their families, as well as organizing so-called Madison Dinners attended by key figures in domestic and international politics.
Throughout their years in Washington, aids have complained that the Pompeos have blurred the lines between the personal and the professional by asking staff to run errands such as picking up dry cleaning or watching their pet, practices banned by federal ethics rules if made a condition of the staffer’s employment.
Ahead of the article’s publication, Politico sent the secretary a list of questions concerning his wife’s role at the department. Pompeo responded in a statement rare in its length and extent to which it challenges Politico’s reporting and line of questioning.
The statement says:
Susan Pompeo has chosen to serve America in a multitude of ways over the past ten years for the betterment of me, my work teams, Kansas and America. POLITICO’s continued efforts to smear her are both sad and wrong. Instead of being slandered, she should be applauded and thanked. How in the year 2020 is it the case that a self-described “dominant source for news on politics and policy” engages in a gossip rag disinformation campaign to sully a strong, smart, capable woman?
The story facts as you’ve presented them to us do not remotely reflect reality. Moreover, many of the accusations are from events taken out of context or simply made up. This level of journalism is a discouragement for those across the political spectrum who might consider serving their country. I read the POLITICO ethos. Among the many lofty intentions, your ethos states, “we dedicate ourselves to providing accurate, nonpartisan impactful information…” Your hit pieces on my wife Susan fall wildly short of that.
Let’s be clear: I have benefited from – and continue to benefit from – Susan’s efforts to support the teams for which I have had responsibility. She has worked tirelessly to help my Congressional staff achieve excellence and cared deeply that every interaction we had with the people of South Central Kansas reflected our deep commitment to them. At the Central Intelligence Agency, she met with the widows and families of our fallen heroes, met with spouses whose partners worked in difficult, undercover roles and heard their stories and helped them through the tough times. And, now, at the State Department, Susan provides tremendous lift to our diplomatic mission by meeting with spouses of new foreign service officers, speaking to families headed overseas for first time assignments and making sure that foreign diplomats and their spouses are always treated with kindness and warmth, reflecting the finest tradition of America. She meets with families of our foreign service officers overseas, visits schools and medical facilities; she talks with single foreign service officers around the world and champions quality of life issues for all of them. She supports the private citizen groups working to provide art in our embassies in all reaches of the world and those who sustain the Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms and makes herself available to the Museum of Diplomacy. Write what you will, but I will continue to make sure that Susan is engaged appropriately to help me execute my roles as America’s most senior diplomat.
At a time when the press laments that women have been sidelined, Susan is an outstanding mom and woman of faith from the heartland who has worked in the private sector, and has volunteered to serve her country in several capacities. Susan Pompeo has done nothing improper; unless it is improper to want her husband to succeed in the mission laid out for him. Does she provide input and assistance to me? Absolutely. She is the smartest woman I have ever met. She has done nothing but care about the constituents of Kansas and of America and desired to help me address the needs of CIA and State Department employees around the world. The only reason people seem to be criticizing her is that she’s an effective, Christian, conservative Republican from Kansas.
The tone of your questions and fake “facts” are troubling for another, related reason. Politico is trafficking in outmoded, frankly, sexist views of the “proper” role of the wives of officials in public life. It seems that Politico would rather that wives be “seen” but not heard. Men are celebrated for their pursuit of excellence. You paint Susan’s relentless focus on high performance and excellence as making her a “difficult” woman, which not only could not be farther from the truth, but also demeans her professionalism and talents. These are badly dated and offensive positions that no self-respecting journalist should be peddling in the year 2020.
I am the luckiest man in the world to have met Susan Pompeo and to have persuaded her to come alongside me in this life. America, the men and women who serve at the State Department, the CIA and on our congressional and campaign staffs were made better by her, as am I every single day. To paraphrase a great movie line, “if you wish to attack someone, stick to me, because Susan Pompeo is way out of your league.”