Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly of violating “basic rules of journalism and decency” regarding a contentious interview and its aftermath.
On Friday, Pompeo abruptly ended his interview with Kelly after she pressed him on why he had not specifically defended former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post last spring. “I’ve defended every single person on this team,” Pompeo said.
In a statement issued via the State Department on Saturday, Pompeo said, “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.”
After the interview ended, Kelly said that she thanked Pompeo, and he glared at her before leaving the room. She said she was asked by one of Pompeo’s aides to come to a private living room at the State Department but without a recording device. But Kelly said that there was no agreement that the interview’s aftermath would be off the record.
When she saw Pompeo again, 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.”
She said that he then asked whether she could find Ukraine on a map, and called out his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing and countries marked. She said that she pointed to Ukraine. “He said, ‘People will hear about this,’ and he turned and said he had things to do, and I thanked him again and left.”
She said on Friday that they reached out to the State Department to let them know that they planned to report the post-interview conversation. But the State Department did not immediately respond.
In the statement issued on Saturday, Pompeo ended with one more comment about the map quiz, saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.” Otherwise, he did not challenge the veracity of Kelly’s account of the conversation.
In a statement, Nancy Barnes, NPR’s senior vice president for news, said, “Mary Louise Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand by this report.”
Yovanovitch was a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry, and testified about a effort led by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to remove her as he sought information about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was vice president.
On Friday, ABC News ran an audio recording in which a voice that appears to be Trump’s is heard saying of Yovanovitch, “Get rid of her.” According to the network, the recording was from 2018, and he was having a conversation with Lev Parnas, Giuliani’s former associate. Parnas recounted the conversation in an appearance last week on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.
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