Mike Pompeo's memoir stirs controversy with passages on Nikki Haley, Jamal Khashoggi

Both Haley and Khashoggi's widow disputed what Pompeo wrote.

January 24, 2023, 8:03 PM

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's new memoir, released on Tuesday, is drawing fire over sections about his Trump administration colleague Nikki Haley and the slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi -- with pushback coming from Haley and Khashoggi's widow.

In "Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love," Pompeo criticizes Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was killed in 2018, and claims that former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Haley tried to replace Mike Pence as vice president under President Donald Trump.

"I wanted to tell the story from my perspective, for four years of the Trump administration, and our effort to put the American people at the front of American foreign policy," Pompeo said in a Tuesday interview with CBS News.

Pompeo wrote in his book that Khashoggi was "cozy" with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political movement, and that Khashoggi mourned Osama bin Laden's death.

"He didn't deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was -- and too many in the media were not," Pompeo wrote, describing "a situation far more complex than has been acknowledged."

In a statement released on Tuesday, Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, denounced Pompeo's characterization of Khashoggi.

Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during the Asahi Shimbun interview on Jan. 23, 2016 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Asahi Shimbun

"It is shocking and disappointing to see Mike Pompeo's book so outrageously misrepresent the life and work of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi," Ryan said.

"As the CIA – which Pompeo once directed – concluded, Jamal was brutally murdered on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman," he said.

Saudi Arabia's prince has denied having personal knowledge of Khashoggi's death, though U.S. intelligence concluded that he would have signed off on the operation to either capture or kill Khashoggi.

Pompeo writes in his book that it was "agents of the Saudi regime" who "literally chopped [Khashoggi] into pieces," which he called "grotesque butchery."

Pompeo responded to Ryan's criticism on Twitter, writing, "Americans are safer because we didn't label Saudi Arabia a pariah state. I never let the media bully me. Just [because] someone is a part-time stringer for [the Post] doesn't make their life more important than our military serving in dangerous places protecting us all. I never forgot that."

Khashoggi's widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, told ABC News that it was "not true" that her late husband was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"It is shameful to try to justify a horrible crime against my husband," she said in a statement.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo prepares to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State Departments 2021 budget in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2020.
Jim Lo Scalzo/POOL/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Pompeo, a former CIA director and Kansas congressman who was Trump's last secretary of state, told CBS News on Tuesday he was considering a 2024 run for president. But he said he was still undecided on whether to throw his hat in the ring -- though Trump's own decision to run would not affect his own decision.

Also in the Tuesday interview with CBS, Pompeo addressed another controversy around his book. He wrote how he was told that at one point during Trump's presidency, Haley apparently tried to oust Pence to become vice president.

Haley denied that in an interview with Fox News last week, saying, "It's really sad when you're having to go out there and put lies and gossip to sell a book."

But Pompeo said on CBS that he was told it "was true" by both Trump's then-chief of staff, John Kelly, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser. Pompeo suggested that Haley, who left the administration before him, was less committed to serving.

Haley is also a possible candidate in the 2024 presidential election but has not said whether she will run.

ABC News' Hannah Demissie and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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