Media Watch

Letter to Commentary Magazine Regarding Mike Pompeo

The following letter was submitted to Commentary Magazine in response to "The ADL Smears Mike Pompeo" (April 19, 2018)

Letters to the Editor
Commentary Magazine

To the Editor:

Re "The ADL Smears Mike Pompeo" (April 19, 2018):

There’s plenty to untangle and criticize in Sohrab Ahmari’s hit piece, which outrageously and falsely claims that Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, is using his position as head of a storied civil rights organization to play partisan politics. Ahmari then goes on a selective cherry picking expedition of past ADL research, reports and writings in a failed attempt to show how our concerns about Mike Pompeo are two-faced.

First, to the tired, retread accusation that Greenblatt is a “partisan hack:” That’s a serious accusation and one that leaders and experts never use lightly.  It’s also dead wrong.  

Greenblatt was a successful entrepreneur and businessman who felt the call to serve in the Obama Administration, where he and I first met, and for which he led a non-political office on social innovation. Since he has transitioned to ADL, Greenblatt has called out anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry from both the right and the left, and on both sides of the aisle. There is nothing political about hate or bigotry – it is an affront to the founding principles of liberty on which our country was founded.

Second, to the charge that ADL has unfairly “smeared” Pompeo.

To be clear, our letter to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not dismiss Pompeo’s qualifications and policy positions out of hand.  It said, “While we have some areas of agreement with Mr. Pompeo, we have deep concerns about his nomination based on his stated views and past behaviors.” In other words, we are not saying that Mr. Pompeo does not have the qualifications to serve as Secretary of State.

Our concern lies where Pompeo has too frequently seen the propaganda coming from groups like ISIS and conflated their objective – a so-called Islamic state – with unrelated, innocent individual practicing Muslims. That isn’t how the American justice system works. Conflating the views of all Muslims with the erroneous interpretation of Islam by monsters like ISIS, is wrong – and definitely an ineffective strategy in countering terrorism.

In fact, Ahmari has gone on a fishing expedition, grabbing at statements and reports the League has issued on specific terrorist events and regarding specific terrorists acting in the name of their own perverse interpretations of Islam. He has attempted to compare these examples to Pompeo’s past generalized statements. But all of the quotes he chooses are apples-to-oranges comparisons that attempt to change the subject and shout down critical debate. Importantly, Ahmari makes no attempts to justify or contextualize Pompeo’s associations with anti-Muslims bigots and their organizations. Sadly, Pompeo himself offered no apology or explanation for those associations in his testimony before the committee.

When it comes to terrorism, we at ADL identify the threat of violent extremism and urge the government to counter it – regardless of the ideology that motivates it.  While we call out specific violent extremists who have acted in the name of their false interpretation of Islam, Pompeo casts doubt about the loyalty of Muslims throughout the nation, implying that they may be responsible for acts of terrorism or in some other way of working to undermine our country. That is not only incorrect and bigoted – it undermines our national security by feeding into a perceived war on Islam that extremists use to recruit. 

I've only worked at the ADL for seven months, but I have spent over 12 years in the Executive Branch working for both Republicans and Democrats (including the Obama National Security Council for four years). As a former Homeland Security official, I believe that ADL has raised all of the right questions about Pompeo. And I can confirm without a shred of hesitation that Mr. Greenblatt and hundreds of ADL staff across the country do their jobs every day without any considerations to political party.

At ADL, we stand for principles, not politics.


George Selim
Senior Vice President Programs
Anti-Defamation League

Note: Prior to joining ADL, Mr. Selim most recently served concurrently as Director of Community Partnerships and the Director of the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.