Morgan Ortagus, the former State Department spokesperson for Mike Pompeo, weighed in on China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims earlier this week after Golden State Warriors part-owner Chamath Palihapitiya callously admitted that he didn’t care about the issue. Pompeo, Ortagus’ former boss, declared the situation a genocide a year ago, just before leaving office.
Not caring about the genocide of Asian Muslims is anti-Asian, Anti-Muslim, and shows his bigotry.
— Morgan Ortagus (@MorganOrtagus) January 17, 2022
OutKick spoke to Ortagus about genocide, her past and future careers in foreign policy, if she likes sports.
Burack: Let’s start with your career. How did you go from US Navy reserve to State Department spokesperson to media commentator?
Ortagus: I mean, what a dream job it was working in the State Department. Especially for somebody like Pompeo, who made it just fun for me.
My career was a very long and convoluted journey since it started. I grew up in central Florida. My twin sister and I were the first members of our family to go to college. My grandparents didn’t even have a high school education.
So when I was in college, 9/11 happened. It was definitely a really pivotal moment for me as a young person. I [changed] my major to foreign policy and started studying what was going on in the world. And I think like everybody else, during 9/11, I was confounded. How did it happen? And you want to get to the bottom of it. You want to serve your country. So that’s how it all started for me.
This week, an NBA owner said that he doesn’t care about the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in China. One year ago, Mike Pompeo, whom I think you were working with at the time, declared China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims to be genocide. Can you give us background on Pompeo’s conclusion of genocide?
Ortagus: Yes, of course. I was with him at the time, but I was technically on maternity leave. But this was so important to me, [so] I actually came back to make sure that this announcement went out with me as spokesperson. And it was really a combination of trying to put the legal pieces together to make sure that we could certify that this is a genocide. As you say, this is a legal term, not something we just throw around. It was a long process.
Declaring a genocide is not a political decision, as people think. It’s actually quite technical. There are many things that lawyers and other people have to measure in order to call it a “genocide” or a crime against humanity. I think it’s really important to have those metrics because it shouldn’t be something political. It should be something that everybody, Republican or Democrat, as Antony Blinken did when he came into the Biden administration, should be able to objectively declare something as a genocide or not.
So we did a lot of hard work to get that done. And listen, it is incomprehensible that China is still welcomed with open arms by the international community. It’s incomprehensible to me they’re allowed to host the Olympics when there is an ongoing genocide in a region of China called Xinjiang. In Xinjiang, they are working to exterminate the Uyghur population.
Uyghurs are Muslims. Listen, Christians are also persecuted in China. But I always felt, as a Jewish American, a real obligation to speak out on behalf of the Uyghur people, especially because of what happened to the Jewish people in the Holocaust. And I’ve always said, ‘Listen, if the Chinese are willing to commit a genocide against their own people, against Muslims that live within their borders, who’s to say that Christians and other ethnic groups won’t be next?’
So I think it’s a real truth stain on the world and on global corporations and on the West that we prioritize climate change over human rights. I think it’s a big problem.
Are the perpetrators of the Uyghur genocide modern-day Nazis?
Ortagus: Yes, that is accurate.
We are seeing the most egregious human rights abuses in a generation. We always think of the Nazis and we think of gas chambers and those terrible things. The Chinese Communist Party is a bit more insidious. They know that they have to be a little bit careful about how they do this. They’re very secretive.
But we have evidence. We have a lot of sworn testimony, a lot of fantastic reporting of things like forced abortions and forced sterilizations. I don’t care where you are on the abortion issue. Even if you’re pro-choice, you should be against forced abortion, right? I mean, I’m pro-life. But even if you are pro-choice, you should be against forcing women to have abortions or forcing women to be sterilized. It’s pretty heinous. It’s nasty.
So it’s sick stuff. As Americans, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Who is going to rule the world order?’ Like, is it going to be the rules-based order that we’ve enjoyed since World War II with the United States and other like-minded democracies trying to set up fair rules, accountability, transparency? Or is it going to be the Chinese Communist Party and their colleagues leading the world order? And if it’s them, then that means, in my mind, more human rights abuses perpetrated around the world. Because there’ll be no one to stop them. Everyone will look the other way to have access to their market.
Burack: You mention the Olympics, but we also have Hollywood filmmakers admitting they change scripts and casting decisions to appease the CCP. They are directing films to keep China happy. Has China always had such an influence on the U.S. film industry?
Ortagus: Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
There have been examples of movie after movie where Hollywood would erase things or delete or change names in order to appease the Chinese Communist Party. And I just find it absolutely reprehensible. I mean, the way that we allow ourselves to be censored by communists. It just makes my freakin’ head explode. It’s so bizarre, Bobby.
Burack: So now you are in media. Do you believe there’s a way to turn foreign policy into a media platform, whether it’s a weekly show or a blog or a digital show? News shows talk about these topics, but not really in-depth.
Ortagus: I would absolutely love it. That sounds super fun. And talking to you, Bobby, makes me want to start a Substack. I would ask you for your advice: do you think enough people would be interested? Let me know and let’s see if we can find a really cool and interesting way to actually talk about this information.
I can certainly get in the weeds in a way that’s not interesting to everybody. But what I try to do is say, you know, ‘This is why Russia and Ukraine matter to you and your everyday life and what you’re concerned about.’
We live at a very dangerous time in the world. We can’t afford to have weak and failed leadership in President Biden and his vice president. I mean, they are two peas in a pod when it comes to weak, failed leadership. And I think it’s important for us to just pay close attention, obviously, [to] what happens in our neighborhoods, what happens in our schools, what happens with COVID, in the lockdowns. All of these things matter. But I think it’s also important to keep your eye on the world. Because, you know, we don’t want to wake up in a situation where we’re totally confused and confounded when the world has capitulated to the Chinese Communist Party.
If you don’t think that this won’t change your everyday life, I’ve got big news for you — it will.
Burack: Are you a sports fan?
Ortagus: I am — I think. I will say that I like watching sports in person. I’m not, like, a big fan of watching on TV, unless it’s, like, a Super Bowl. But I will tell you this, Bobby. The most fun thing that I love to do now that we live in Nashville is going to a Predators game. They are so fun. That’s hockey, for any of your readers. (Though our readers probably know a lot more about sports than I do.)
But yeah, I love the Predators. That’s been like one of the highlights moving to Nashville. My husband is also a big Eagles fan, the football team. I may have to turn him into a Titans fan.
My little sister actually went to Florida State. She was a Seminole. So the biggest, biggest game of the year for me growing up was Florida vs. Florida State. That’s still the highlight for my dad during football season.