Pompeo Bars NPR Reporter From His Plane
WASHINGTON — Following an unusually acrimonious exchange between Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and a senior journalist with National Public Radio, the State Department has barred the broadcaster’s representative from traveling with him as part of a reporting pool on his next trip abroad.
The association that represents correspondents who report on the State Department late Monday issued a stinging protest.
“We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange,” the State Department Correspondents’ Association said in a statement.
“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.”
NPR’s veteran diplomatic reporter Michele Kelemen was scheduled to join the reporters traveling with Pompeo, America’s top diplomat, as part of a pool of print and broadcast journalists who take turns accompanying the secretary during official trips, flying on his Air Force jet. They report on his activities for the broader press community. The media companies pay for the flights.
Pompeo plans to depart this week for several countries including Ukraine. He will be the first senior U.S. official to travel to its capital, Kyiv, since President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy led to his impeachment and ongoing Senate trial on accusations of pressuring the government to investigate his political rivals.
NPR was informed Monday that Kelemen would not be allowed to join the reporting trip. The correspondents’ association asked State Department officials to reverse the decision.
State Department spokespeople did not immediately respond Monday evening to a request for comment.
On Friday, in an interview with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Pompeo grew testy when Kelly asked him why he hadn’t done more to defend Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was smeared by Trump allies and abruptly removed from her post last year.
Kelly broadcast the interview and disclosed that, when it was over, Pompeo unleashed a profanity-laced tirade, asking, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”
Kelly also said that Pompeo asked for a map without country names and demanded she locate Ukraine. She said she did. On Saturday, Pompeo issued a strident statement, saying Kelly had lied about her plans for the interview and blasting her as “shameful” for disclosing the subsequent conversation, which he claimed was off the record. Kelly said Pompeo’s aide never asked for that stipulation, nor would she have agreed to it.
Pompeo, in the department’s statement, did not deny having said the things she disclosed. On official State Department letterhead, Pompeo described a media “unhinged” in its determination to “hurt” Trump and his administration.
He ended the statement with an insinuation that Kelly had not, in fact, correctly identified Ukraine on the map, which only seemed to confirm that he indeed had demanded she do so. “It is worth noting Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine,” he said.
Pompeo seemed to continue the recriminations Sunday, when he used his personal Twitter account to post a biblical passage about liars and fools.
Yovanovitch’s ouster occurred last year at Trump’s direction because he believed her to be an impediment to his efforts to pressure Zelenskiy into announcing corruption investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and of a debunked conspiracy theory that a prior Ukrainian government, not Russia, hacked the Democratic Party during the 2016 election campaign. Neither Trump nor anyone else in the administration has alleged any specific wrongdoing by the Bidens. Yovanovitch’s recall from Kyiv has been a central piece of the case House Democrats have presented in the president’s trial.
Pompeo has come under criticism from within his department and from former diplomats for failing to publicly support Yovanovitch and other foreign service officers who come under attack.
The correspondents association noted that the department also has stood up for press freedoms in the past. “The State Department has courageously defended journalists around the world through statements under its seal,” it said. “We are committed to do our part to preserve a respectful, professional relationship with the institution we cover.”
©2020 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
In The News
RICHMOND, Va. – Due to the lack of federal workplace guidelines in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday emergency occupational safety standards to be implemented statewide. The rules, instituted via an executive order, mandate social distancing, sanitation and the use... Read More
The Interior Department is dropping plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades in Washington State, citing the concerns of people who live and work in the area. The move has alarmed environmentalists who say the decision threatens the future of the bears and the... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Republican National Committee is reducing the size of its planned presidential nominating convention in Jacksonville, Fla., in August in the face of a continued surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the state. The GOP’s plans were first reported by The Hill.... Read More
WASHINGTON - Whether due to office closures, fear of seeking medical assistance during the pandemic, or simply for convenience, the nation has seen a rise in telemedicine over the last four months. While telemedicine isn’t new, barriers to adoption, such as security concerns or a lack... Read More
WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans agreed Wednesday during a congressional hearing that the U.S. government needs a more proactive strategy for protecting against cyberattacks but disagreed how to accomplish it. Democrats want a new agency to address cyberthreats while Republicans suggest working more aggressively through existing... Read More
WASHINGTON - A week before Congress turns its attention to the next coronavirus relief bill, advocates for the nation's restaurants are urging lawmakers to include a number of provisions to specifically bolster the struggling industry. “In just the past two weeks alone, state and local government... Read More