Republican presidential wannabe Pompeo uses teachers, Weingarten as punching bag
Pompeo's attacks on Randi Weingarten reflect GOP hatred of public education in general. | Mike Groll/AP

WASHINGTON—How do you know the presidential campaign season is upon us? When a right-wing presidential hopeful, Mike Pompeo, uses U.S. teachers, in general, and Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, in particular, as a punching bag to harvest votes.

Left unsaid is that Pompeo, former Oval Office occupant Donald Trump’s last Secretary of State, is catering to the caterwaulers in the Republican Party who hate public schools, their teachers and their students, too—because a majority of public school students are not white and a majority of teachers are ideologically not in step with Republican Party dogma.

Pompeo delivered his insults on Nov. 21, just before his mentor, Trump, met with a white nationalist leader and hosted the nation’s newest prominent anti-Semite, the rapper Ye, at his Mar-A-Lago estate. Trump already announced he’s running for the party nomination again in 2024. Pompeo is expected to jump into the race, too. Here’s his quote to Semafor:

“I tell the story often—I get asked, ‘Who’s the most dangerous person in the world? Is it Chairman Kim [Jong Un], is it Xi Jinping?’ The most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten. It’s not a close call.” Kim Jong Un runs North Korea. Xi Jinping runs China.

“If you ask, ‘Who’s the most likely to take this republic down?’ It would be the teachers’ 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.’”

“If given the opportunity….” Sounds like Pompeo’s running for president.

Pompeo didn’t define “filth,” but other members of his party have been doing so for the past several years, and especially during the 2022 mid-term election campaign. Then, they denounced Democrats allowing the “teaching” of critical race theory in public schools, and for opposing parental “control” of education.

Both are favorite Republican “social issues.” The theory is not taught in public schools, and its discussion is solely within higher academia. Parental “control” of education is a dog-whistle for imposing a past ethnocentric and whitewashed view of U.S. history on all students.

Weingarten, a New York City civics teacher, had a choice reply. She knew what he was doing. So did the AFL-CIO.

“I know that Mike Pompeo is running for president, and frankly I don’t know whether to characterize his characterization of me as ridiculous or dangerous,” her first tweet stated. “At the State Department, Pompeo defended Middle East’s tyrants & undermined Ukraine. He was more focused on pleasing Trump than fighting 4 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. 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!

“And we fight against this kind of rhetoric and hate. Maybe spend a minute in one of the classrooms with my members and their students and you will get a real lesson in the promise and potential of America.”

In her response statement, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler got the point, too, while reminding readers that Pompeo’s “filth” characterization attacked all teachers—and put them and their families “at risk” by “dangerous remarks clearly meant to incite” right-wing legions.

“Teachers and school staff deserve praise and gratitude from our nation’s leaders,” Shuler continued. “With Pompeo’s toxic, hurtful rhetoric aimed at educators and their advocates, it’s a stark reminder of just how far extremists will go to diminish and disrespect hard-working teachers just to score cheap political points.

“Make no mistake: When Pompeo called AFT President Randi Weingarten, the union’s elected leader, ‘the most dangerous person in the world,’ he attacked all working people who work every day to build America’s future.

“Dangerous rhetoric such as Pompeo’s attack on teachers has no place in our political discourse. The American labor movement stands in solidarity with AFT President Weingarten, all parents and every educator in this country who works day and night to provide every opportunity for children to learn and who inspires them to follow their dreams.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.