U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 25 accused an NPR reporter of lying about whether a conversation he initiated with her had been deemed off the record, a charge that NPR denied. The Washington Post agency reported this.
Pompeo’s statement, however, did not address NPR’s explosive account of the conversation — that he shouted at reporter Mary Louise Kelly, used expletives, indicated that she had questioned him about Ukraine under false pretenses in a just-completed interview, and asked her, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”
The exchange came as Pompeo, President Trump’s longest-serving and closest senior adviser on national security, has been criticized for his conduct related to both Ukraine and Iran and his disregard for congressional and media questions about it.
In a statement, Pompeo called the NPR episode “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration.”
On Friday, at the end of an interview that focused largely on Iran, Kelly asked whether Pompeo owed the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, “an apology” for failing to defend her when the president ordered her fired last spring.
In response to Kelly’s question about Yovanovitch, Pompeo insisted that “I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran,” an assertion the NPR reporter disputed, saying she had told his staff she would ask about Iran and Ukraine. When Kelly persisted with questions about Yovanovitch, Pompeo said, “I have defended every person on this team.”
On the Friday evening broadcast, Kelly said, “I was taken to the secretary’s private living room, where he was waiting and where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself. He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine.”
“He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the f-word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away,” Kelly said.
“He said, ‘People will hear about this,’ ” she said.
In his written statement released Saturday morning, Pompeo said, “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.”