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Opinion Here’s what I think of Mike Pompeo’s craven smearing of Jamal Khashoggi

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, meets with King Salman at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on June 24, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Happy Friday to everyone — except Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, the former secretary of state feels no shame in smearing the name of a journalist and a defenseless murder victim — as that’s exactly what he does in his new book, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love.”

According to reports, Pompeo writes that Jamal Khashoggi — a Post contributing columnist who was my colleague and friend — was not the person we said he was. “He didn’t deserve to die,” Pompeo says, “but we need to be clear about who he was — and too many in the media were not.” Jamal, he goes on, was a journalist only “to the extent that I, and many other public figures are journalists. We sometimes get our writing published, but we also do other things.”

I don’t know how people like this sleep at night.

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After more than four years of living with the trauma of Jamal’s killing, and the callousness of both the Trump and the Biden administrations in their policies toward Saudi Arabia in the wake of his murder, I thought I had seen it all. But Pompeo has shown what it looks like when rock bottom has a trap door. Attacking a murder victim’s reputation to hawk books is as laughably pathetic as it is craven.

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Opinions coverage of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Post contributing columnist since 2017, was killed in Istanbul at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in 2018. According to a U.S. intelligence assessment, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation to capture or kill him.
Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor at the time, called it “a monstrous and unfathomable act.” He wrote a column titled “Why bring a bonesaw to a kidnapping, Your Highness?
Khashoggi’s columns for The Post described Saudi Arabia under Mohammed bin Salman, calling it “unbearable” and comparing him to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Biden, after vowing on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” visited the country in July 2022. Biden defended the trip in a guest opinion for The Post. Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan wrote that Biden’s trip showed American values are negotiable.
Biden greeted Mohammed bin Salman with a fist bump, which columnist Karen Attiah called “a crass betrayal.” Attiah edited Khashoggi’s columns for The Post.


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Pompeo, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is also peddling a lot of ignorance about one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest voices. Anyone who does any basic research can find out pretty easily that Jamal had a long career as a writer, editor and aspiring media entrepreneur for decades before he came to The Post. (It sometimes surprises me how many people around the world learned about Jamal only through his horrible death.) He was a reporter and book author; he would talk to me about his reporting trips to Africa and to Turkey.

Why does there now seem to be a backlash toward Jamal in Washington’s elite circles? Pompeo’s remarks remind me of the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood, whose 12,000-word magazine profile gave Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, the space to insult and demean Jamal, and defend his own human rights record, without pushback. (When Wood asked about the murder, the crown prince replied that “Khashoggi would not even be among the top 1,000 people on the list” of targets to kill, and that the episode “hurt me and it hurt Saudi Arabia, from a feelings perspective.”)

I speak to people to this day who felt anger and sadness for Jamal — who truly felt for this man they never met. To them, Jamal became a symbol of the powerful’s callous disregard for human life. They, at least, understand that this sort of human connection is more potent than anything Pompeo has to offer.

I knew Jamal’s work and the heart and strength it took for him to write in defense of those in Saudi Arabia who were being persecuted under the crown prince. Jamal Khashoggi will forever be known as someone who fought for the voiceless and who lost his life for speaking the truth. Pompeo? I’m sure history won’t remember much about him at all.

Home Front: #BlackStudiesMatter, except in Florida

My latest column is about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to bar AP African American studies from being offered to high school students. According to the gub’nor, the course violated his state’s Stop Woke Act, and the Florida Department of Education said it lacked “educational value.”

For all who took the “critical race theory” panic as legitimate discussion, Florida is saying the quiet part out loud, in THX surround sound: Legalizing anti-Blackness was always the end game.

Fun Zone: Tapped out. Please come back later.

This year has not started off … easy or kind. I promise I’ll get back to finding fun stuff for y’all. In the meantime (please!) feel free to send me internet things you enjoy. Me, lately — contemplating the state of things:

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