President Donald Trump praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for testy remarks to NPR host and reporter Mary Louise Kelly, telling him, “I think you did a good job on her, actually.”
At a White House ceremony with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump noted the presence of Pompeo and said, “That was very impressive. That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday. I think you did a good job on her, actually.”
Most reporters took Trump’s comment as having to do with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly’s interview with Pompeo on Friday, not Monday. Pompeo abruptly ended that interview as Kelly pressed him on when he specifically defended Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post last spring.
After the interview ended, Kelly said, he glared at her for a moment and left the room. One of his aides summoned her to a State Department living room. There, Kelly said, “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.”
Pompeo then asked Kelly to identify Ukraine on a map with the names of countries left off. She said that she correctly identified where Ukraine is.
On Saturday, the State Department issued a statement from Pompeo blasting Kelly. He accused her of lying about the terms of the interview and breaching an agreement to keep the post-interview conversation off the record. But Kelly said she did not agree to conditions placed on the interview, nor did she agree that anything was off the record. Rather, she said that one of Pompeo’s aides merely told her to leave her recording device behind before she had the post-interview conversation with him.
On Monday, NPR said that the State Department removed reporter Michele Kelemen from the radio pool that will travel with Pompeo on his trip to Europe and Central Asia this week. The president of the State Department Correspondents Association said that the action was in retaliation for the Kelly interview.
Update: NPR has sent a letter to Pompeo seeking clarification for why Kelemen was removed from the pool reporters for his upcoming trip. John Lansing, NPR’s CEO and president, and Nancy Barnes, its senior vice president of news and editorial director, wrote that if they do not a receive a “satisfactory response” before Pompeo leaves on Wednesday, they “will have no choice but to conclude that Ms. Kelemen was removed from the trip in retaliation for the content of NPR’s reporting.”
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