President Trump may think it amusing and laudatory that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo berated and cursed out NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly last week after she asked him tough questions about Ukraine and whether he supports his diplomats, but NPR isn't laughing at Pompeo's behavior.
The State Department informed NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Keleman on Sunday, without explanation, that she will no longer be traveling with Pompeo on this week's trip to Britain, Ukraine, and Central Asia. NPR CEO John Lansing demanded an explanation Tuesday and told the State Department if NPR doesn't get satisfactory answers by Wednesday, when Pompeo is scheduled to depart, NPR "will have no choice but to conclude that Ms. Kelemen was removed from the trip in retaliation for the content of NPR's reporting."
The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday seeking emails, text messages, and other records related to the State Department's decision to kick Keleman off Pompeo's trip. "The requested records would shed light on whether the State Department or Secretary Pompeo did, in fact, retaliate against NPR as a result of the contentious January 24, 2020 Interview," CREW's Nikhel Sus wrote in the filing.
After Kelly's interview with Pompeo, she told NPR on Friday, he called her into a separate room and "asked, 'Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?' He used the F-word in that sentence and many others." Kelly also said Pompeo made her point out Ukraine on an unlabeled map — she says she did; Pompeo, in his official response, snidely (and improbably) suggested she pointed to Bangladesh. Pompeo also accused Kelly of lying, though emails of her exchange with Pompeo's staff show Kelly was forthright and stayed within agreed-upon parameters.
Pompeo calling her a "liar" is "not what bothers me," Kelly wrote in an New York Times op-ed Tuesday. "It matters that people in positions of power — people charged with steering the foreign policy of entire nations — be held to account. The stakes are too high for their impulses and decisions not to be examined in as thoughtful and rigorous an interview as is possible. Journalists don't sit down with senior government officials in the service of scoring political points. We do it in the service of asking tough questions, on behalf of our fellow citizens. And then sharing the answers — or lack thereof — with the world."