Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday lashed out publicly at an NPR correspondent who reported on Friday that he berated and cursed at her following questioning over Ukraine, claiming “she lied to me” and describing her actions as “shameful.”
“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 a statement. “It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.”
Pompeo did not challenge the details of Kelly’s claims about his statements or demeanor during their conversation, notes NBC News.
He also did not dispute Kelly’s claim that she had correctly identified Ukraine. “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine,” he said in his statement — but did not allege that Kelly had done so.
Kelly revealed during a segment on “All Things Considered” on Friday that Pompeo questioned whether Americans even care about Ukraine and if the veteran journalist — who had recently returned from reporting in Iran — could find the country on a map.
“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,” Kelly told her co-host Ari Shapiro, according to a transcript of the program. “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,” Kelly said.
“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,’” Kelly recounted.
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly says the following happened after the interview in which she asked some tough questions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. pic.twitter.com/cRTb71fZvX
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 24, 2020
Pompeo has been accused of failing to protect U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from a smear campaign spearheaded by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani and has responded vaguely to allegations that the ambassador was under surveillance and her safety at risk by a Giuliani associate before her abrupt removal last year.
The secretary said he agreed to sit down with NPR’s Kelly to discuss the administration’s strategy on Iran.
“You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran,” Pompeo said in the interview when Kelly brought up Ukraine. “That’s what I intend to do.”
“I have defended every State Department official. We’ve built a great team,” he added when asked if he has defended Yovanovitch.
Listen to this. It's less than a minute. Seriously — just check this out: https://t.co/8xCuYFpKYB
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) January 24, 2020
Dozens of journalists took to Twitter on Friday to show their support for Kelly:
This is how @SecPompeo spoke to NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. @NPRKelly is an indefatigable reporter and is exquisitely polite and collegial, one of the gems of this business. What boorish and inexcusable behavior. https://t.co/YyWnoBnxwW pic.twitter.com/ZWHklBj8cZ
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) January 24, 2020
I love that this churlish goombah was so sure Mary Louise Kelly, who is sharp as an adamantium razor, was bluffing about knowing where Ukraine is located on a map that had an aide bring one in to consummate his humiliation. https://t.co/k7BUz2CIsC
— Will Wilkinson 🌐 (@willwilkinson) January 24, 2020