Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has personally fired back at the NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, who claimed he’d verbally accosted and tried to humiliate her during a discussion the two shared after she interviewed him Friday afternoon.
According to Pompeo, she’d promised that their discussion would be off the record. Yet she later leaked the discussion to the public in what, if proven true, would amount to a gross violation of basic journalistic standards. He claimed further that she’d also lied by promising that their interview would be about Iran. Yet instead the interview turned out to be mostly about Ukraine.
“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice,” he said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “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.”
In what may be one of the most scathing verbal uppercuts released in recent times, he added, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”
During the interview Friday morning, Kelly began hassling the secretary of state about Ukraine, prompting Pompeo to remind her that he’d “agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran.”
This appears to be her first lie.
“You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran,” he said. “That’s what I intend to do. I know what our Ukraine policy has been now for the three years of this administration. I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
“This administration delivered the capability for the Ukrainians to defend themselves. President Obama showed up with MREs [meals ready to eat]. We showed up with Javelin missiles. The previous administration did nothing to take down corruption in Ukraine. We’re working hard on that. We’re going to continue to do it.”
The host ignored his remark and continued plastering him with more questions about Ukraine. After answering some of them, Pompeo then abruptly terminated the interview.
Listen to the relevant portion of the interview below (disable your adblocker if the video doesn’t appear):
After the interview concluded, Kelly claimed to her NPR colleagues on live air that Pompeo had grown angry, prematurely ended the interview and then asked to speak with her off the record.
“[A]n aide stopped the interview and said, ‘We’re done, thank you,’ and you heard me thank the secretary. He did not reply. He leaned in, glared at me, and then turned and with his aides left the room,” she said.
“Moments later, the same staffer who had stopped the interview reappeared, asked me to come with her — just me, no recorder — though she did not say we were off the record, nor would I have agreed. I was taken to the secretary’s private living room where he was reading and where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted.”
An analysis of the interview’s full transcript suggests it lasted roughly 13 to 17 minutes.
“He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine,” the NPR host continued. “He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence, and many others.”
According to Kelly, the secretary then asked her if she “could find Ukraine on a map” and made her prove that she could indeed.
“He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes,” she explained. “He called out to his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this,’ and then he turned and said he had things to do, and I thanked him again for his time and left.”
A State Department spokesperson initially responded to the allegations late Friday by issuing a statement to Fox News disputing her claim that she’d been able to correctly pinpoint Ukraine on a map.
In Pompeo’s own caustic statement issued the next day, he added that she’d incorrectly pointed to Bangladesh, not Ukraine. What he didn’t do was dispute the rest of her account. Nor did the State Department. It appears therefore that they’ve admitted that he did terminate the interview prematurely and then yell at Kelly off the record.
Whether or not it was appropriate for him to yell at her, the fact remains that it’s an ethical breach of the highest record to agree to have a discussion off the record but then turn around and publish the contents of that discussion:
Every government official should take note of the reporters who defend those that break off the record agreements. Reporters defending @NPRKelly will also burn you.
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) January 25, 2020
In what universe is complaining about a reporter breaking an off the record agreement an “assault on press freedom?”
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) January 25, 2020
However, it hasn’t been established without a doubt that Kelly did actually agree to an off-the-record discussion. Pompeo claims she did, while she claims she didn’t.
Much like the recent feud between Democrat presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, this latest fiasco appears to be turning into a he-said, she-said situation, though you can already guess which side the media have taken.
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