Presidential impeachment defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz said Tuesday that while he disapproved of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo berating a reporter, “if he can help bring about peace in the Middle East, I’ll forgive him his rudeness towards a reporter.”
The comments come following President Donald Trump’s remarks at the unveiling of the Middle East plan on Tuesday, where the President praised Pompeo’s behavior toward a National Public Radio reporter as “very impressive” and having done “a good job on her” as Dershowitz patted Pompeo on the back. NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly said Friday that Pompeo had screamed obscenities at her and demanded she prove she could find Ukraine on an unmarked map after their interview displeased him.
When asked by CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin why he had patted Pompeo’s back at that time, Dershowitz replied, “Because I like Mike Pomepo’s views on the Middle East.”
Dershowitz first appeared to criticize Pompeo’s actions and Trump’s implicit endorsement, before attributing his own gesture to Pompeo’s policy stance.
“I thoroughly disapprove of the way he has reportedly treated a reporter, I don’t think reporters should ever be treated that way, in any way, and I don’t think presidents should say that it’s a good thing to treat a reporter that way,” he said. “We’re all tempted to do that, but I like Mike Pompeo’s views on the Middle East and that’s what I’m supportive” of.
When Toobin questioned the timing of Dershowitz patting Pompeo on the back while Trump was praising the secretary of state for attacking the reporter, the lawyer responded, “I think you’re reading too much into that.”
While Dershowitz initially said, “I patted him on the back a dozen times when we talked about the Middle East, so that’s what my pat was intended to encourage,” he then suggested that the gesture had been meant to support Pompeo in response to criticism over his behavior toward Kelly.
“If he’s being attacked and he’s being criticized, I want to show my support, because he’s a great secretary of state and he’s done great things for the peace process and in the Middle East,” Dershowitz said. “And if he can help bring about peace in the Middle East, I’ll forgive him his rudeness towards a reporter.”
The State Department has escalated the incident since Kelly first publicly discussed it. On Monday, the department removed another NPR reporter from the press pool covering Pompeo’s upcoming trip to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and has yet to explain or defend the highly unusual decision.
CNN’s Brian Stelter contributed to this report.