“The interview between Mr. Pompeo and the reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, widely circulated after it was published on Friday night. Describing a tense exchange after a taped part of the interview, Ms. Kelly said that Mr. Pompeo shouted at her repeatedly using the ‘f-word’ and challenged her to find Ukraine on an unlabeled map that his aides pulled out, which she did.” — New York Times, 1/25/20

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I want to be perfectly clear regarding the events that transpired between myself and NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly the other day.

After our interview, I asked Ms. Kelly to come with me to my office. After voicing my concerns about our interview, I took the next logical step — I told one of my aides to bring me a blank map of the world, and then I demanded that Ms. Kelly point to Ukraine’s location.

There’s been some confusion around this, so I would like to state now, unequivocally, for the record: Yes. I absolutely did have a blank world map on the ready in the next room. And I always do.


Because I’m fucking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and my house is just chock-full of blank world maps.

Believe me when I say that my house is just absolutely teeming with reams of redacted cartography. My aides fetched a blank map from my office, but they could have gotten one anywhere. Did you look behind the toilet? Maps. In the shoe cabinet? Maps. The top shelf of the refrigerator? Chilly maps.

Keep going. Did you peek behind that creepy oil painting in the hall? Maps. Slice open my mattress? Maps. Pulled the book Map of the World (With Country Names Clearly Labeled) off my library shelf and thought you caught me in a lie? Think again. Open it up. That’s right: it’s hollowed out and filled with adorable teeny-tiny unlabeled world maps.

In the Declaration of Independence, we are promised the right to three things: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For me — and, I suspect, for a lot of regular, everyday Americans — the one single thing that brings us joy is filling our homes with ream after glorious ream of maps where someone has used Wite-Out on all the country names.

I’m a very simple man. Here’s what I love: the shapes of countries. Here’s what I don’t need: any additional fucking information.

And you’re right if you assume that my home’s veritably infinite collection of blank world maps reflects this.

I’m sorry it took this incident for me to say it, but I won’t be silent any longer: I love what countries look like. I hate what they are called. If that makes me a scientist, so be it.

I am who I am. I paid for DNA testing from 23andMe and immediately had the results redacted because it’s none of my fucking business.

When the pilot of the plane announces where we’ll be landing, I plug my ears and scream, “Not for us to know!”

In fourth grade, my teacher stood up at the chalkboard and pulled down a blank world map for all of us to see, and I was like, “Very cool.” Then she pulled down another world map with the names of countries written on it, and I was like, “Absolutely not.”

My father’s father emigrated to our great country from a roundish squiggly country, and my mother’s family came by boat from a squarish area (large). That’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for NPR.

Borders? Yes. Names? Why. Put them together? What the fuck?

Initially, they wanted to make my job title, “Secretary of Kansas.” I said, “That’s way too specific.” And so here we are.

Sometimes I can hear my wife whispering from the mattress-shaped pile of maps she sleeps on now, “There are too many blank world maps in our house, Mike.” And I just sigh and pull my blanket (a bunch of maps stapled together) over my head (the body part that gives me the idea to buy more maps). I love my wife, but sometimes I wish she were like a blank world map (i.e., very quiet and super awesome).

People are always asking me, “Mike Pompeo, what kind of person just has blank world maps lying around at home?” After this incident with Ms. Kelly, I feel like the answer is clear. The first reason is so that I can try and fail to humiliate a professional woman with a Master’s in European studies from Cambridge University who was just calmly trying to do her job with the gnarliest stumper my simple caveman brain can imagine (a 6th-grade geography question).

And the second reason is for coloring.