Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flatly denying an ABC News report that said he listened to, and read the transcript of, audio of columnist Jamal Khashoggi being murdered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
ABC quoted a “senior Turkish official” for the bombshell story that indirectly confirms that such a tape exists and that a Saudi hit squad killed Mr. Khashoggi.
The Turks have leaked a number of sensational allegations to the U.S. press about how the missing Islamic activist met his demise. To date, the administration of Recep Erdogan hasn’t released any video or audio evidence which would apparently have come from bugging the consulate.
Mr. Pompeo has visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey to urge an open investigation as he tries to contain the crisis. He then headed to Mexico.
He met with the traveling press Thursday night.
“I will take your Khashoggi question and only that one,” he said. “I’ve seen no tape. I’ve seen no – or I’ve heard no tape. I’ve seen no transcript. And the network that reported that ought to pull down the headline that says I have.”
He then asked a reporter, “Do you work for ABC?”
“You should actually ask them. They’re peers of yours. You should tell them that the Secretary of State is on the record saying this and that they shouldn’t – they shouldn’t do that. This is wrong to do to the fiancé of Khashoggi. We should be factual when we’re reporting things about this. This is a very serious matter that we’re working diligently on. And so to put out headlines that are factually false does no one any good. You should encourage all your colleagues to behave that way. It’s most constructive when the media tells the truth. It’s very useful.”
ABC continued to promote the story Friday morning. It added Mr. Pompeo’s denial deep into the story.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has heard an alleged audio recording of Washington Post columnistJamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a senior Turkish official,” the lede says on Friday.
“Speaking exclusively and on condition of anonymity to ABC News, the official claimed the recording was played in meetings in Turkey on Wednesday, and that Pompeo was given a transcript of the recordings.”
ABC said it didn’t know if Mr. Pompeo delivered the supposed transcript to President Trump.
Conservatives have taken to social media to condemn the mainstream media for accepting all Turkish leaks as fact. They note that Mr. Erdogan, who seeks wider influence in the Islamic world, tightly controls the flow of information and has jailed journalists.
Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who fled to the U.S., entered the compound on Oct. 2 to obtain papers that would allow him to marry a Turkish woman. He has not been seen since. CNN quotes sources as saying he was murdered during interrogation by Saudi intelligence officers.