WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out in anger Saturday at an NPR reporter who accused him of shouting expletives at her after she asked him in an interview about Ukraine. In a direct and personal attack, America's chief diplomat said the journalist had “lied” to him and he called her conduct “shameful.”
NPR said it stood by Mary Louise Kelly's reporting.
Pompeo claimed in a statement that the incident was “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt” President Donald Trump and his administration. Pompeo, a former CIA director and Republican congressman from Kansas who is one of Trump's closest allies in the Cabinet, asserted, "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.”
In making such a personal attack on a journalist, he is following the lead of Trump, who has repeatedly derided what he calls “fake news” and ridiculed individual reporters. In one of the more memorable instances, Trump mocked a New York Times reporter with a physical disability.
In Friday’s interview, Pompeo responded testily when Kelly asked him about Ukraine and specifically Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv whose ouster figured in Trump’s impeachment.
After the interview, Kelly said she was taken to Pompeo’s private living room, where he shouted at her “for about the same amount of time as the interview itself,” using the “F-word” repeatedly. She said he was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine.
Pompeo, in his statement, did not deny shouting at Kelly and did not apologize. Instead, he accused her of lying to him when setting up the interview, which he apparently expected would be limited to questions about Iran, and for supposedly agreeing not to discuss the post-interview meeting.
He ended his statement by saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”
Kelly said Pompeo, after the interview, asked whether she thought Americans cared about Ukraine and if she could find the country on a map.
“I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing,” she said in discussing the encounter on “All Things Considered.” “I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘people will hear about this.’”
Nancy Barnes, NPR’s senior vice president of news, said in a statement that "Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report.''