An NPR reporter who had been scheduled to travel on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Europe and Central Asia this week was removed from the press pool, an action that a journalists’ group claims is retaliation against the network over NPR hosts Mary Louise Kelly’s recent interview with Pompeo.
Shaun Tandon, president of the State Department Correspondents Association, said in a statement that reporter Michele Kelemen was in rotation as the radio pool reporter but was removed. He noted that it “comes days after Secretary Pompeo harshly criticized the work of an NPR host. We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange.”
He added, “The State Department press corps has a long tradition of accompanying secretaries of state on their travels and we find it unacceptable to punish an individual member of our association.”
An NPR spokesperson said that Kelemen “was informed that she would not be traveling. She was not given a reason.”
Pompeo issued a statement through the State Department on Saturday, blasting Kelly and accusing her of agreeing that a post-interview exchange was off the record. Kelly, however, said that she never agreed to those terms.
Pompeo abruptly ended the interview after Kelly asked questions about Ukraine and pressed him for specific instances in which he defended Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to that country who was recalled from her post last spring.
After he glared at her for a moment and left the room, Kelly said, 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.