Pompeo isn’t the first secretary of state to blow up at a reporter or berate a subordinate. But what struck journalists and politicians who know Pompeo was that the Kelly incident wasn’t an aberration. Pompeo’s intimidating anger is so well known back home in Kansas that during his 2014 reelection campaign, supporters of his opponent began wearing stickers that said “Mike Bullied Me.”
A trademark Pompeo warning to critics in Kansas is the menacing phrase “It won’t go well for you,” one Kansas Republican told me. At the CIA, Pompeo became known for repeating the abrupt dismissal, “Got it, got it.” Aides considered preparing humorous buttons with the phrase “You’re not in Kansas anymore,” to encourage a gentler style, but decided against it.
Pompeo doesn’t like being challenged by journalists, and he’s often snide in putting them down. That includes the local Kansas press as well as elite Washington reporters like Kelly. When reporters from the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle asked Pompeo in March 2019 about a proposed cut in democracy assistance for Venezuela, Pompeo told them, “Yeah, you just have your math wrong. You should do better work than that.” The reporters, Bryan Lowry and Lindsay Wise, along with a third reporter, Franco Ordoñez, checked their facts with State Department and wrote: “A senior administration official acknowledged the numbers were correct.”