- Yuri Gripas/Reuters
- Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is not a fan of Sunday-morning talk shows.
- Apparently, that disdain for televised appearances resulted in a threat to a White House press secretary eager to see him on TV.
- According to the journalist Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book, a partial passage of which was tweeted by an Associated Press reporter on Tuesday, Mattis lashed out at Sean Spicer, the president’s former press secretary, after Spicer tried to get him to go on TV.
- Mattis told Spicer that he would send him to Afghanistan if he called again, the book says, according to the AP reporter.
- The secretary of defense has sought to discredit Woodward’s reporting, calling the book a “uniquely Washington brand” of “fiction.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis lashed out at Sean Spicer after the former White House press secretary repeatedly tried to get him to go on Sunday-morning talk shows, according to the journalist Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book, a partial passage of which was tweeted by an Associated Press reporter on Tuesday.
Spicer, a US Navy reserve commander, apparently tried numerous times to get the secretary of defense to go on television, finally causing an exasperated Mattis to respond with a statement far clearer than a simple “no.”
“Sean,” Mattis said, according to the excerpt of the book, “Fear,” tweeted by the AP’s Zeke Miller. “I’ve killed people for a living. If you call me again, I’m going to f—ing send you to Afghanistan. Are we clear?”
The secretary of defense has made only one appearance on a network show since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. He appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” in May 2017, when he told the host John Dickerson that nothing kept him awake at night but that “I keep other people awake at night.”
Just before the latest Pentagon briefing, Mattis told reporters he took no pleasure in standing up in front of the cameras and addressing a large audience.
Woodward’s book – which is set to be released next Tuesday and has been the topic of much discussion this week – also says that Mattis privately criticized Trump for having the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader” after a particularly trying meeting, The Washington Post reported.
The Post reported that the book also says Mattis had to rein in Trump after a phone call in which the president ranted about wanting to “f—ing kill” Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In response to Woodward’s reporting, Mattis issued a statement Tuesday condemning the book as a “uniquely Washington brand” of “fiction.”
“The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis said. “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”
He added: “In serving in this administration, the idea that I would show contempt for the elected Commander-in-Chief, President Trump, or tolerate disrespect to the office of the President from within our Department of Defense, is a product of someone’s rich imagination.”