Pompeo’s Falsehood-Laden Briefing Echoed Uncritically by Media Outlets

Unbacked allegations and plain contradictions drive anti-Iran narrative

As the Trump Administration continues to barrel toward a war with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a press conference in which he once again claimed that every dubious accusation made by the administration was true, and the internally inconsistent comments among top officials are all somehow in agreement.

Pompeo’s comments, even the ones that made no sense or were obviously untrue, were echoed across US media outlets as absolute facts following the briefing. Everyone was clearly more comfortable just reporting “Pompeo says” than analyzing it.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was very critical of some of the worst claims Pompeo made, saying one would have to be brain-dead to believe them. He noted it made no sense to attack Iran to “preempt” attacks when the attack just made attacks even more likely.

Pompeo was largely dismissive of questions about the US attack, and rejected claims that Gen. Qassem Soleimani was working on Saudi diplomacy, saying nobody believed Soleimani was engaged in diplomacy and that Iran’s Foreign Minister was lying about that. In reality, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was the one who broke the story of why Soleimani was in Iraq. Instead of offering evidence to the contrary, Pompeo just denied.

On the question of the US barring Zarif from the UN in violation of the headquarters agreement, Pompeo said the US doesn’t comment on why they deny people entrance, and insisted that the US always complies with the headquarters agreement, despite it flat out saying you can’t block officials from speaking at the UN, and the US doing exactly that.

The closest anyone at the briefing came to calling Pompeo on his contradictions was on the matter of the US attacking cultural sites. President Trump threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites on Saturday, Pompeo said Trump never said that on Sunday, and Trump said it again on Sunday evening. Pompeo was asked to address this.

Pompeo said that what he said, that Trump never said there would be attacks on cultural sites, was “completely consistent with what the President has said,” which repeatedly was that he intends to attack cultural sites. This was a bit too glaring, and one of the press said “No, but the President has -” before being interrupted by Pompeo.

At this point, Pompeo went off on a tangent claiming that the ayatollah is the “real threat” to Iranian culture. When asked if that meant US attacks on cultural sites are “ruled out,” despite Trump’s comments, Pompeo promptly ended the briefing and left.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also claimed on Tuesday that Soleimani was planning to attack Americans “within days” if the US hadn’t killed him. As with Pompeo, his claim did not include any evidence, and as with Pompeo’s claims, the press is echoing it.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.