Panetta to Trump: Threatening military action ‘not reality TV’

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused President Trump Friday of trying to "bully" world leaders into cooperating with him, saying the president has treated foreign policy like "reality TV."

"When you're president of the United States, when you're commander in chief – this is not reality TV," Panetta said on CNN. "This is a situation where you can't just talk down to everybody in the world and expect that somehow you can bully them to do what you think is right."

Panetta, who served as Defense secretary for a year and a half under former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE, warned Trump that foreign leaders take his words literally and that his inflammatory rhetoric shouldn't be used lightly.

ADVERTISEMENT

"These are leaders in these countries," Panetta said. "They worry about their countries, they're worrying about what's going to happen. And they take the president of the United States literally. Words count."

Panetta's comments came hours after Trump said that he hasn't ruled out military action in Venezuela to confront mounting social and political turmoil, particularly related to the autocratic government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The Pentagon sought to downplay that assertion Friday, saying in a statement that it had not received any orders regarding Venezuela.

But Trump has also amped up his aggressive rhetoric toward North Korea. After reports surfaced on Tuesday that Pyongyang had developed nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside one of the country's missiles, Trump said he would unleash "fire and fury" on the North if it continued to threaten the U.S.

That comment has led to an ongoing war of words between Trump and Pyongyang and has also fueled global concerns of a possible military confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea.