Pompeo Responds to Journalist’s Allegations Over Ukraine Questioning, NPR Defends Reporter

January 25, 2020 Updated: January 25, 2020
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State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo responded to allegations by a journalist on Saturday, after a heated exchange during an interview the day before.

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of “All Things Considered,” conducted an interview with Pompeo on Friday where they began with discussing U.S. policy in Iran. The interview abruptly ended when Kelly started asking questions about former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Kelly claimed that after the interview a department aide asked the reporter to join the secretary in his private living room where he allegedly “shouted” at her because “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 alleged during her recount of what happened after the interview to co-host Ari Shapiro.

She said Pompeo then asked her if she could find Ukraine on a map, in which she replied in the affirmative. He then allegedly ask for aides to bring out an unmarked map, where Kelly pointed to Ukraine before he put the map away. He then allegedly told her that “people will hear about this,” she said.

The state department released a statement on Saturday with Pompeo’s response to Kelly’s allegations. The secretary did not confirm or deny what happened after the interview but accused Kelly of lying to him twice.

“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,” Pompeo said in the statement. “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,” he continued.

He ended his statement by saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

NPR’s senior vice president for news Nancy Barnes released a statement defending Kelly. Barnes said, “Mary Louise Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report.”

Pompeo has come into the spotlight after criticism that he failed to publicly defend Yovanovitch amid political allegations. For example, former senior state department advisor Michael McKinley said during his testimony during the House impeachment probe that he resigned from the department in part because he was concerned about what he saw as a “lack of public support for department employees.”

When asked about the criticism and Yovanovitch during the interview, Pompeo said, “I’ve defended every single person on this team. I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team.” He said that he agreed to do the interview to talk about Iran.

“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,” he said.

Kelly then told Pompeo that she had confirmed with state department staff that the interview would be about Iran and Ukraine, to which he responded that he did not have any further comments.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan