Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired back at NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly on Saturday after Kelly claimed without evidence on Friday that Pompeo yelled and swore at her after an interview he gave during which she repeatedly ignored the alleged parameters of what was going to be discussed during the interview.
NPR published a selectively edited portion of the interview on Twitter in which Pompeo was calm in answering Kelly’s aggressive line of questioning about U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Mike Pompeo — who refused a House subpoena — would be a top witness for Democrats in the impeachment trial.
— Morning Edition (@MorningEdition) January 24, 2020
After the interview, Kelly claimed, “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. He said, ‘people will hear about this.’”
Pompeo fired back in a statement on Saturday, noting that Kelly repeatedly lied to him about the interview, and that when she was presented with the map that she falsely identified Bangladesh as being Ukraine:
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. 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.
It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.
It is also worth highlighting the relevant portion of the transcript where Pompeo repeatedly told Kelly, both before and after the portion published in NPR’s tweet, that he agreed to the interview to talk about Iran, which Kelly ignored.
Below is the relevant transcript with everything in bold representing what was included in NPR’s selectively edited clip:
KELLY: Change of subject. Ukraine. Do you owe Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology?
POMPEO: You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran. 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.
KELLY: I confirmed with your staff [crosstalk] last night that I would talk about Iran and Ukraine.
POMPEO: I just don’t have anything else to say about that this morning.
KELLY: I just want to give you another opportunity to answer this, because as you know, people who work for you in your department, people who have resigned from this department under your leadership, saying you should stand up for the diplomats who work here. [crosstalk]
POMPEO: I don’t know who these unnamed sources are you’re referring to. I can tell you this. When I talked to my team here –
KELLY: These are not unnamed sources. [crosstalk] This is your senior adviser Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer with four decades experience, who testified under oath that he resigned in part due to the failure of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine.
POMPEO: I’m not going to comment on things that Mr. McKinley may have said. I’ll say only this. I have defended every State Department official. We’ve built a great team. The team that works here is doing amazing work around the world.
KELLY: Sir, respectfully [crosstalk] where have you defended Marie Yovanovitch?
POMPEO: I’ve defended every single person on this team. I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team. [crosstalk]
KELLY: Can you point me toward your remarks where you have defended Marie Yovanovitch?
POMPEO: I’ve said all I’m going to say today. Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that.
KELLY: One further question on this.
POMPEO: I’m not going to – I appreciate that. I appreciate that you want to continue to talk about this. I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran.
KELLY: And you appreciate [crosstalk] that the American public wants to know as a shadow foreign policy, as a back channel policy on Ukraine was being developed, did you try to block it?
POMPEO: The Ukraine policy has been run from the Department of State for the entire time that I have been here, and our policy was very clear.
KELLY: Marie Yovanovitch [crosstalk] testified under oath that Ukraine policy was hijacked.
POMPEO: I’ve been clear about that. I know exactly what we were doing. I know precisely what the direction that the State Department gave to our officials around the world about how to manage our Ukraine policy.
KELLY: Secretary, thank you.
Political strategist and communications specialist Andrew Surabian responded to the political Left calling Pompeo’s statement an “assault on press freedom,” writing: “In what universe is complaining about a reporter breaking an off the record agreement an ‘assault on press freedom?’ If @NPRKelly did indeed break an off the record agreement, she should be fired & her colleagues should be condemning her, not holding her up as a resistance hero.”
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
This report has been updated to clarify the fact that the line “NPR published a selectively edited portion of the interview” was referring to the tweet that NPR published, which went viral, and not the transcript.