Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that National Public Radio reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to him and broke an off-the-record agreement.
“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice,” Pompeo said in a statement. “First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record.”
Pompeo and his staff said Kelly agreed that an interview with the secretary would be about Iran but that she asked questions about Ukraine and United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Kelly revealed on NPR that Pompeo afterward berated her for breaking her agreement about the topic of the interview but does not appear to have a recording of the exchange.
Kelly accused Pompeo of using the “f-word” during their conversation.
“He shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted. He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine,” Kelly said after her interview that was aired on NPR’s All Things Considered. “He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence, and many others.”
But Pompeo denounced her reporting.
“It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency,” he said.
Kelly also claimed that Pompeo showed her a blank map and asked her to identify Ukraine and claimed that she identified it correctly.
But Pompeo suggested in his statement that Kelly failed to correctly identify Ukraine.
“It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine,” he said in the statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo said the incident revealed one more example of reporters in Washington operating under a different set of rules under President Donald Trump.
“This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration,” he said. “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.”
Trump allies rallied to defend Pompeo after establishment media journalists backed Kelly.
“Until reporters start calling out their own for violating fundamental rules of journalism they are in no position to lecture anyone,” wrote Republican Strategist Arthur Schwartz.
Good for @SecPompeo. Until reporters start calling out their own for violating fundamental rules of journalism they are in no position to lecture anyone. @PhilipRucker was given a pass and now this liar. Enough is enough. https://t.co/jlVrMOVXVJ
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) January 25, 2020
“Today’s lesson for all US officials: first it was the Washington Post, now it’s NPR that you can’t trust to go off the record,” wrote United States Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. “Duly noted.”
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) January 25, 2020
“In what universe is complaining about a reporter breaking an off the record agreement an ‘assault on press freedom?'” asked former White House aide Andrew Surabian.
In what universe is complaining about a reporter breaking an off the record agreement an "assault on press freedom?"
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) January 25, 2020
“Fascinating to watch Kelly become a Lefty hero for abandoning basic journalistic standards,” former White House aide Cliff Sims wrote on Twitter.
Fascinating to watch @NPRKelly become a Lefty hero for abandoning basic journalistic standards. We already knew the “rules” in general aren’t applied equally. But it’s funny to watch the Left drop the pretense of fairness, cuz all that matters is “getting” @realDonaldTrump. https://t.co/RQ1xtJxOra
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) January 25, 2020