After welcoming the Secretary of State to Nashville, Amons signaled to Pompeo that the interview would not be a cakewalk, saying, “I’m gonna start right away with the tough stuff that you’re expecting.” Pompeo smiled and said, “Ask away.”
Amons first set up her line of questioning by mentioning Michael McKinley, Pompeo’s senior adviser who resigned this week, telling told the Secretary that McKinley has added his voice to a number of career diplomats who have expressed frustration over what they see as Pompeo’s “failure to stand-up government servants like Marie Yovanovitch [the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine] who was caught up in the Ukraine controversy.”
With Pompeo’s initial welcoming smile now a thing of the past, Amons asked “Did you do enough to defend the ambassador both publicly and privately against the smear campaign that was being waged against her?”
Pompeo first told Amons that she has “some of her facts wrong.” And then began to scold her saying, “You should be careful with things that you assert as facts before you state them.” Then Pompeo proceeded to do what he would continue to do throughout Amons’s tough and precise questioning—sit stoically and recite a talking point mantra about being “incredibly proud of the work that I’ve done, along with my team and other senior leaders of the state department…”
Amons followed up and asked if Pompeo could speak to McKinley’s resignation. Pompeo said, “I don’t speak to personnel matters.” She pushed again and Pompeo refused to answer, again saying that he doesn’t talk about personnel matters, adding, “It wouldn’t be appropriate, ma’am. You wouldn’t want me to talk about an employee that we’ve terminated or an employee that left… you wouldn’t want me to do that. It wouldn’t be appropriate,” Pompeo said.
Later in the interview Amons turned her attention to President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and asked whether or not the two had met when both were in Warsaw, Poland, earlier in the year. Again the Secretary refused to answer, saying, “You know, I don’t talk about who I meet with. I went to Warsaw for a particular purpose. It was an important mission. We brought together people all across the world to take down the world’s largest state-sponsored terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran. That’s what I worked on on that mission.”
Amons continued to press: “So, you’re not going to say whether or not you met with him?” But Pompeo again filled the air with a non-answer, leading Amons to call him out on it while asking, “It sounds like you’re not going to say?” Then Pompeo repeated the answer he already gave.
Amons again drew the Secretary’s ire when she asked about the text messages sent by diplomats regarding the US-Ukraine relationship. Amons asked: “Text messages show that diplomats under your authority told the Ukrainians that a good relationship with President Trump was only possible if they investigated his political opponent and theories about what happened in 2016. Were you aware that this was happening?”
A seemingly fed-up Pompeo then lashed out in his reply, accusing the journalist of bias: “Again, you’ve got your facts wrong — it sounds like you’re working at least in part for the Democratic National Committee,” the secretary said.
The interview received attention and praise online because of Amons’s no-nonsense approach and unflinching follow-up questions. When asked on Twitter if she felt unsafe while dishing the hard hitting questions, Amons said no, adding, “I think he liked me less at the end though than at the beginning.”
No, I never felt unsafe. I think he liked me less at the end though than at the beginning. https://t.co/2ong6teTgt
— wsmv Nancy Amons (@WSMVNancyAmons) October 12, 2019