Mike Pompeo, former director of the CIA and U.S. Secretary of State under Donald Trump, said in an interview on Monday that he believes the “most dangerous person in the world” is a teacher’s union leader.
Reporters from Semafor approached Pompeo after his speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference over the weekend, where he had announced a potential run for president in 2024. One reporter, Shelby Talcott, asked what Pompeo thought the central issues of a 2024 run might be.
“Making sure we don’t teach our kids crap in schools,” Pompeo said in response. “I tell the story often — I get asked, ‘Who’s the most dangerous person in the world? Is it Chairman Kim, is it Xi Jinping?’ The most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten.”
Weingarten has served as the president of the American Federation of Teachers for the past 15 years, and is a well-known labor leader and attorney in the United States. She has also been the focus of targeted outrage from right-wing pundits for the union’s position supporting COVID mandates, for example. Fox News has smeared the union and Weingarten specifically as being greedy and attempted to paint a picture of kids failing school due to unions. Weingarten has also been vocal in supporting teachers against right-wing attacks against teaching accurately on topics such as race in schools.
“It’s not a close call,” Pompeo’s response to Talcott continued. “If you ask, “Who’s the most likely to take this republic down?” It would be the teacher’s unions, and the filth that they’re teaching our kids, and the fact that they don’t know math and reading or writing.”
“These are the things that candidates should speak to in a way that says, ‘Here’s the problem. Here’s a proposal for how to solve it. And if given the opportunity, these are the things I will go work on to try and deliver that outcome that fixes that problem.’ Pretty straightforward stuff.”
Weingarten wrote in a Twitter thread Monday night that she didn’t know whether Pompeo’s characterization of her was “ridiculous or dangerous,” considering his intent to run for president in 2024. She said Pompeo’s work at the State Department “was more focused on pleasing Trump than fighting [for] freedom, national security & democracy. To compare us to China means he must not know what his own department says.”
“So Mike, let me make it easy for you,” Weingarten wrote. “We fight for freedom, democracy, and an economy that works for all. We fight for what kids & communities need. Strong public schools that are safe and welcoming, where kids learn how to think & work with others. That’s the American Dream!”
The AFT advocates for “fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities,” according to its mission statement. “We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.
Motherboard reached out to the AFT for comment, and was directed by a spokesperson to Weingarten’s Twitter thread.
Education was one of the most-cited issues in the 2022 midterm elections. Many Republican-led states made efforts to outlaw discussion of LGBTQ history and critical race theory in classrooms, and GOP leaders have used the talking point that parents no longer have the right to select what their children get taught in school.