The State Department has removed a veteran NPR reporter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip after clashing with another NPR reporter last week. Michele Kelemen was part of the press pool accompanying Pompeo to several Central Asian and European countries, including Ukraine. On Friday, Pompeo was interviewed on the program “All Things Considered” by Mary Louise Kelly, who pressed him over the treatment of recalled U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “I have defended every State Department official. We’ve built a great team. The team that works here is doing amazing work around the world.”
Mary Louise Kelly: “Sir, respectfully, where have you defended Marie Yovanovitch?”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “I’ve defended every single person on this team. I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team.”
Mary Louise Kelly: “Can you point me toward your remarks where you have defended Marie Yovanovitch?”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “I’ve said all I’m going to say today.”
After the tense interview, Kelly said Pompeo shouted at her for asking him about Ukraine, asked her, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” — using the F-word in that and other sentences — and asked her to identify Ukraine on a map. In a statement, Pompeo said Kelly lied to him about the questions she would ask in the interview, as well as about their post-interview exchange being off the record. Kelly denies both of these claims.
Ben Wizner of the ACLU said of the incident, “The State Department cannot retaliate against a news outlet because one of its reporters asked tough questions. It is the job of reporters to ask the tough questions, not be polite company.”