News & Politics

Defense Sec. Mattis Jokes that Testifying Before Senate Is 'Worse than Waterboarding'

He made the comments as Gina Haspel, known for her involvement with torture programs, is poised to become the next CIA director.

Photo Credit: DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Defense Secretary James Mattis joked about waterboarding Tuesday as he accepted the Freedom Award from the International Republican Institute.

The remarks were part of an off-hand comment he made after a brief coughing fit.

"I've been testifying before the Senate lately, you understand," he said. "It's worse than waterboarding, but we won't go into that right now."


The remarks are particularly relevant, given that the nominee to be the next CIA director Gina Haspel has faced a controversial confirmation battle because of her past involvement with the agency's torture programs. Haspel is expected to be confirmed, despite some opposition from some Republican senators.

Mattis himself is on the record opposing torture. He reportedly convinced President Donald Trump to abandon his campaign promises to bring back torture, reportedly telling him that "beer and cigarettes" are more effective at getting people to talk than waterboarding.

Watch the clip below:

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.