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US Republican convention: Pompeo speech sparks outcry

August 26, 2020

As Republicans aimed to strike a more conciliatory tone the second night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spurred an outcry over his controversial appearance. The convention's many speeches were peppered with falsehoods.

Mike Pompeo
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

The Republican National Convention's second night on Tuesday saw a keynote speech made by first lady Melania Trump touting racial understanding as well as sympathy for coronavirus victims, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke with tradition by making a controversial appearance.

Read morePresident Donald Trump officially renominated for 2020 election 

"I want you to know, you are not alone," Melania said, addressing those suffering amid the "terrible pandemic." Her speech, staged in the White House Rose Garden, was aimed at female voters who have abandoned Trump. Opinion polls for Trump have plunged in recent months, particularly among women.

She acknowledged the effects of the pandemic — a sharp contrast to most other speakers at the Republican Party's national convention.

"I want to acknowledge the fact that since March, our lives have changed drastically," she said. "My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one."

Melania Trump
Melania Trump's speech was seen as reaching out to undecided votersImage: Reuters/K. Lamarque

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The first lady also reflected on the protests and racial unrest that has swept the country in the months since the May death of George Floyd. 

"I urge people to come together in a civil manner so we can work and live up to our standard American ideals," she said. "I also ask people to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice and never make assumptions based on the color of a person's skin."

Peppered with misinformation

Many of the night's speeches — which touched on topics including US relations with China, military wages and the economy under US President Donald Trump — contained misinformation and exaggerations.

Both Melania Trump, officials — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and Trump's son Eric, pushed falsehoods over military wages, the "Islamic State" (IS), relations with China, and Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Melania claimed that Trump was the first president to address a special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) "to call upon countries across the world to end religious persecution and honor the right of every person to worship as they choose." However, Trump is not the first president to do so. Several predecessors, as well as former President Barack Obama, also addressed the UNGA to discuss religious tolerance.

Read moreUS ambassador for religious freedom: 'It's a fundamental right for everybody'

Pompeo breaks with tradition

Pompeo, who gave his address from Jerusalem, touted Trump's "America First" vision. "It may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it's worked," he said.

His taped appearance broke with decades of tradition of secretaries of state refraining from involving themselves in domestic politics. The appearance was so unusual, that the chairman of a Democrat-led House of Representatives subcommittee announced an investigation into whether Pompeo's appearance broke federal law and regulations.

Read moreMike Pompeo makes appeal for normal relations with Israel

"The Trump administration and Secretary Pompeo have shown a gross disregard not only of basic ethics, but also a blatant willingness to violate federal law for political gain," Joaquin Castro, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's oversight subcommittee, said in a statement.

Pompeo praised the US president's handling of the relations with China, saying that Trump "ended ridiculously unfair trade deals with China that punched a hole in our economy" and that the president "has held China accountable for covering up the China virus and allowing it to spread death and economic destruction in America and around the world."

However, Pompeo did not mention Trump's initial praise of Chinese President Xi Jinping for his handling of the virus early on in the pandemic. Trump had earlier called Xi "extremely capable" and said he's "doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation."

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Pompeo also said that "because of the president's determination and leadership, the ISIS caliphate is wiped out." However, the IS still exists and continues to pose a threat.

Meanwhile, Trump's son, Eric, claimed that "Biden has pledged to defund the police." Biden has made no such pledge and has even rejected calls from some on the political left to defund the police — instead proposing more money for departments to improve their practices.

He also claimed that President Trump "increased wages for our incredible men and women in uniform," but the military pay has been raised every year for several decades.

Other speakers on Tuesday night included White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, and Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky. The convention will continue through August 27.

lc/stb (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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