In the grand scheme of things that President Trump has done to provoke internet outrage in the last three years, his eating habits are far and away the most inconsequential—but also the easiest to capitalize on for a good laugh. It’s great fun to watch red-meat-and-potato conservatives argue in circles to defend his preference for tragically overdone steak with ketchup, or his almost-convincing logic that he likes fast food because it’s “clean,” or his insistence on removing the buns from said fast food sandwiches for “health.” Even if its grasping at straws to try to glean significant insight into motives or psychology from these habits, it still leaves one wondering: “WTF?”
It’s funnier, then, given the fact that Trump apparently has been given carte blanche by his supporters to tout his most head-scratching food customs, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be so deeply worried about his affinity for processed cheese getting out in the press. Nevertheless, a Bloomberg reporter was banned from Pompeo’s press pool after he published this particular anecdote, according to The Daily Beast.
Back in July, journalist Nick Wadhams reported on Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The story is filled with tidbits collectively conveying the overall impression that the trip was awkward, and not altogether well-coordinated for a diplomatic event of such stature. In short, it made it sound like Pompeo wasn’t doing a very good job taking over from Rex Tillerson in this cabinet position.
Wadhams describes how Pompeo had tired of sitting through elaborate, multi-course meals with Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean general and politician, and by the morning of the second day of the trip, he tapped out. “Instead of the elaborate breakfast prepared for him,” Wadhams wrote, “he ate toast and slices of processed cheese.”
According to The Daily Beast, the outing of this detail absolutely enraged Pompeo, who reamed out Heather Nauert, the State Department’s press secretary, who had approved Wadhams including the tidbit in his story, demanding someone’s “head on a plate.” Wadhams was swiftly informed that he would not be allowed to join the rest of the press pool on the Secretary’s plane for his next diplomatic trip to Helsinki. Sources have allegedly been referring to this affair since the summer as "the cheese incident."
If we’re gauging the appropriate level of embarrassment one should feel at having their weird eating proclivities made known to the world, deciding on a simple breakfast of toast and Kraft singles-style cheese slices is not all that cringe-worthy. It sounds a little like the breakfast a broke college student might settle on without a second thought, and bread and cheese are a very popular pairing—not nearly as undignified as Heinz on a ribeye.
But it definitely says something about the extreme state of paranoia that Trump administration officials must be working under if Pompeo is so distraught that eating Velveeta could, say, potentially embarrass him out of a job. Trump hasn’t subtweeted Pompeo about it or anything like that yet, and if he did, it’d certainly be the pot calling the kettle black. But hey, none of this is even close to the wildest thing we’ve seen come out of the Oval Office so far.