CNN Panel Goes Gaga for Booker ‘Masterfully’ Attacking Pompeo on Gays, Muslims; ‘Tough Exchange’

On Thursday afternoon, it was no accident that CNN almost universally focused on New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker’s questions for CIA Director Mike Pompeo at his confirmation hearing to oversee the State Department. It was even less of a surprise that the CNN panel gushed over Booker “masterfully” attacking Pompeo in a “tough exchange” about his views on gay sex.

The utterly bizarre exchange started when, out of the blue, Booker told Pompeo that he “[w]anted to give you a chance to speak on your comments on gay and lesbians” and then asked in a question whether he thinks being gay is a “perversion.”

 

 

Pompeo told him that he held “a very clear view” as a politician on traditional marriage and he “stand[s] by that” even though “we have gay married couples at the CIA” and “I treated them with the exact same set of rights, the exact same set of beliefs.”

Suddenly, the back-and-forth took a strange turn (click “expand” to read the exchange):

BOOKER: Do you believe — do you believe that gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no. 

POMPEO: Senator, if I can —

BOOKER: Yes or no, sir?

POMPEO: — if you just give me a moment —

BOOKER: Do you believe that gay sex is a perversion? Cause it’s what you said here 

POMPEO: — Senator —

BOOKER: — in one of your speeches. Yes or no, do you believe gay sex is a perversion? 

POMPEO: Senator, I’m going to give you the same answer I just gave you previously. My respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same. 

BOOKER: So I will conclude —

POMPEO: And I will say, if I am confirmed —

BOOKER: — by saying, sir, you're going to be Secretary of State of the United States at the 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. You're going to be representing this country and their values abroad in a nation where gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence. Your views do matter. You're going to be dealing with Muslim states and on Muslim issues and I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forward the values of our nation when you can’t even — when you believe there are people in our country that are perverse. 

CNN host Wolf Blitzer first went to senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson for reaction, telling her that it “was a very strong exchange.”

Henderson hyped that it was a “[t]ough exchange and, in some ways, an expected exchange” with Booker being “the progressive on this panel” and “a lot of gay rights groups rais[ing] these concerns about some of the comments that Pompeo has made in the past.” 

She also invoked questioning from one of Booker’s colleagues about Pompeo’s views on Muslims and how those who don’t or refuse to condemn radical Islamic terrorism bear some of the blame for the bloodshed. Naturally, one reading between the lines will see whom she sided with:

Again, can you promote human rights and equality in the way typically secretaries of states have done and presidents have done if you do personally have this belief that same-sex marriage shouldn't happen and that essentially people who are gay and lesbian aren't as equal. 

Blitzer agreed that Pompeo has held “many...controversial statements” and senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski lamented that Pompeo has had to answer for “his anti-Muslim views.” She then swooned over Booker’s questioning:

[S]o now Cory Booker today, quite masterfully, puts him on the spot and says, well, you were on this radio show where they talk about things like Muslims wanting to impose Sharia Law on America or Muslims should be prosecuted for this. You didn't speak out about that, so he turned his own words really on himself and when you are questioned directly and saying, do you believe being gay is a perversion, do you believe that gay sex is a perversion and the best can you say my record is unambiguous, you are essentially saying yes, I do believe that.

Former Obama administration official and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto replied accordingly that “there are simple answers to those questions,” which is “no.”

Sciutto fretted that there’s been “a slide backward in the way — the discussion of one of the world’s faith — faiths is done,” which is elected officials stating that “I respect Islam just as much as I do Christianity or Judaism and he didn’t give that answer.”

To see the relevant transcript from April 12's CNN Newsroom, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom
April 12, 2018
2:15 p.m. Eastern

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR CORY BOOKER (N.J.): I do want to give you a chance to speak on your comments on gay and lesbians. You’ve said in a speech that morning in America that endorses perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle, in your words. Is being gay a perversion?

CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO: Senator, I — when I was a politician, I had a very clear view whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that. 

BOOKER: So, you do not believe it’s appropriate for two gay people to marry?

POMPEO: Senator, I continue to hold that view. It’s the same view, for the record that —

BOOKER: And so people in the State Department, I’ve met some in Africa, that are married under your leadership, you do not believe that that should be allowed?

POMPEO: Senator, we have — I believe it’s the case that we have gay married couples at the CIA. You should know I treated them with the exact same set of rights, the exact same set of beliefs. 

BOOKER: Do you believe — do you believe that gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no. 

POMPEO: Senator, if I can —

BOOKER: Yes or no, sir?

POMPEO: — if you just give me a moment —

BOOKER: Do you believe that gay sex is a perversion? Cause it’s what you said here 

POMPEO: — Senator —

BOOKER: — in one of your speeches. Yes or no, do you believe gay sex is a perversion? 

POMPEO: Senator, I’m going to give you the same answer I just gave you previously. My respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same. 

BOOKER: So I will conclude —

POMPEO: And I will say, if I am confirmed —

BOOKER: — by saying, sir, you're going to be Secretary of State of the United States at the 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. You're going to be representing this country and their values abroad in a nation where gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence. Your views do matter. You're going to be dealing with Muslim states and on Muslim issues and I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forward the values of our nation when you can’t even — when you believe there are people in our country that are perverse. 

BLITZER: Let me get Nia and the entire team over here to react to that. That was a very strong exchange.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yeah. Tough exchange and, in some ways, an expected exchange. Cory Booker is the progressive on this panel. You've had a lot of gay rights groups raise these concerns about some of the comments that Pompeo has made in the past, including saying that he thought that the legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court was an abuse of power. So, no — no surprise that he said that and you also had Jeanne Shaheen bring up a similar kind of line of questioning, talking about some of the concerns that people have that Pompeo made about Muslims, whether he’s been kind of forthright enough in knocking down comments about Muslims and himself saying that Muslims were sort of shirking their responsibility to speak out against terrorism. So, you saw some of that exchange come up there and Pompeo essentially relying on the same answer, which is that he treats everybody fairly, that people in the CIA have same-sex partners and he didn't treat them any differently but I think there is that issue. Again, can you promote human rights and equality in the way typically secretaries of states have done and presidents have done if you do personally have this belief that same-sex marriage shouldn't happen and that essentially people who are gay and lesbian aren't as equal. 

DANA BASH: And he stood by his personal belief. 

HENDERSON: Yeah he did. Yeah.

BASH: He doesn't believe it's right. He wouldn't go there on the much more detailed question about whether he thinks that — that gay sex is an affront to humanity, I'm not sure exactly how Cory Booker put it, but something along those lines. But it is the question about, you know, you put your personal beliefs aside and you represent the country based on what the law of the land is and the law of the land is that gay couples can get married and so it was a very fine line for him to walk. Obviously, it's not going to please the Democrats, many of Democrats but many of them weren't going to vote for him anyway. 

BLITZER: You know, Michelle, I know that you’ve — all of us going into these confirmation hearings have gone back and taken a close look at many of the controversial statements that Mike Pomeo has made. 

MICHELLE KOSINSKI: Yeah and in the past, he was asked similar questions about his anti-Muslim views. So, and I think it's a good point what Nia was saying. He — he has — one of the things that is controversial is that he has spoken out against Muslims who don't speak out against terrorism. He has called that being complicit, so now Cory Booker today, quite masterfully, puts him on the spot and says, well, you were on this radio show where they talk about things like Muslims wanting to impose Sharia Law on America or Muslims should be prosecuted for this. You didn't speak out about that, so he turned his own words really on himself and when you are questioned directly and saying, do you believe being gay is a perversion, do you believe that gay sex is a perversion and the best can you say my record is unambiguous, you are essentially saying yes, I do believe that.

BASH: He did.

JIM SCIUTTO: You know, there are simple answers to those questions. No, right? Yes or no. I mean, and on the Muslim point —

KOSINSKI: Or you could explain.

SCIUTTO: You could explain too, but listen, whether religion is okay, there's a simple answer to that question and when you compare the state of play today on the issue of Islam, for instance, compared to, say, George W. Bush visiting a mosque days after 9/11 to make a very public and definitive statement about it and you look at Mike Pompeo’s public comments and others in the Trump administration. Mike Flynn made similar comments about the Muslim faith. That's a slide backward in the way — the discussion of one of the world’s faith — faiths is done. There was a simple way to answer that question, which is I respect Islam just as much as I do Christianity or Judaism and he didn’t give that answer. 

NB Daily Congress Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Religion Christianity Islam Sexuality Homosexuality Same-sex marriage CNN CNN Newsroom Video Wolf Blitzer Jim Sciutto Michelle Kosinski Nia-Malika Henderson Cory Booker Mike Pompeo
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