Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday released a statement excoriating an NPR reporter who claimed that Pompeo shouted and swore at her after a recent interview. In his statement, which came with an official State Department seal, he did not deny his outburst but instead suggested that the reporter had confused Ukraine and Bangladesh on a map.
The tension revolved around a nine-minute interview Friday in which reporter Mary Louise Kelly asked Pompeo about Iran. The interview, which NPR has published in full, deteriorated when Kelly moved on to questions about Ukraine and asked Pompeo if he felt he owed former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology. Pompeo refused to answer her questions, insisting he had only agreed to come onto the show to discuss Iran.
Later in the day, Kelly explained on NPR what happened next. An aide appeared and asked her to follow her to Pompeo’s private living room. There, “he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted,” she said. He expressed his fury at her asking him about Yovanovitch. “He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’,” she said. “He used the f-word in that sentence, and many others.”
Then, according to Kelly, he asked her if she thought she could locate Ukraine on a map. He had his aides bring him a world map without labels. “I pointed to Ukraine,” she said. “He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’”
On Saturday, he released his statement:
NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency. This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.
To rebut Pompeo’s accusation that Kelly had misled him about the nature of the interview, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik pointed out that in the interview itself, Pompeo did not argue with Kelly when she said she had confirmed with his aides that they would discuss Ukraine.
Kelly has said she was never asked to keep the conversation off the record and that she would never have agreed to an off-the-record conversation regardless. She also said she had informed the State Department that she planned to report on the conversation.
While Pompeo’s statement focused on accusations of ethical violations, he did not deny his tirade. Nor did he deny that he had said Americans do not care about Ukraine. But he did imply that Kelly, who is an experienced reporter on international affairs, had failed the test he’d given her. At the end of his statement, he added: “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”
NPR’s senior vice president for news, Nancy Barnes, said in a statement that NPR stood by Kelly’s report. “Mary Louise Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity,” she said.
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