US high school student scores Mattis interview scoop

US Pentagon chief Jim Mattis attends the opening dinner of the Institute for Strategic Studies, Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 2, 2017.
US Pentagon chief Jim Mattis attends the opening dinner of the Institute for Strategic Studies, Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 2, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US high school student has scored an exclusive interview with Pentagon chief Jim Mattis after an aide of President Donald Trump inadvertently exposed the defense secretary's cell phone number.

The Washington Post in May ran a photo of Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller walking outside the White House, with Schiller clutching a bunch of papers.

Sharp-eyed readers noticed that atop the papers was a yellow sticky note that said "Jim, Mad Dog, Mattis" along with a phone number.

Retired four-star Marine general Mattis has been nicknamed "Mad Dog" by some in the media and by troops that served under him.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The newspaper quickly took the photo down but not before Teddy Fischer, a sophomore (about 16 years old) from Mercer Island High School saw the number and called Mattis with an interview request.

"I called it to see if it was him, because I was pretty curious if this is actually his number or is it kind of a joke," Fischer told the King 5 local news channel in his home state of Washington.

He didn't leave a message but went on to text an interview request.

To his surprise, Mattis called back and agreed to schedule an interview, which ultimately would last for about 45 minutes.

What followed was a far-ranging conversation across political topics and history.

"Especially if you study history, you realise that our country has been through worse," Mattis said when asked what advice he would give a current high schooler scared about what they see on the news.

When asked why he had chosen to call Fischer back, Mattis said it was partly because he too comes from Washington state.

"I've always tried to help students because I think we owe it to you young folks to pass on what we learned going down the road so that you can make your own mistakes, not the same ones we made," Mattis said.