U.S. State Department bars NPR reporter from Pompeo trip after testy
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[January 28, 2020]
By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State
Department removed a National Public Radio reporter from the press pool
for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming foreign trip, a press
association and NPR said on Monday, days after Pompeo angrily responded
to another NPR journalist's interview with him.
The removal of NPR reporter Michele Kelemen, who was part of the
traveling pool of correspondents with Pompeo on his planned trip to the
UK, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia, can be seen only as retaliation
for her colleague's interview, the State Department Correspondents'
Association (SDCA) said.
"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," Shaun Tandon, the head
of the association, said in a statement.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for
Pompeo was interviewed on Friday by NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, and
was asked repeatedly about Ukraine and ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie
Yovanovitch during a testy nine-minute exchange.
Yovanovitch's removal was a key event in the actions that prompted the
impeachment of President Donald Trump by the Democratic-led U.S. House
of Representatives last month.
Following the interview, Kelly said Pompeo cursed at her and repeatedly
"used the F-word" and asked her: "Do you think Americans care about
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the reporter had lied in setting
up the interview and in agreeing to conduct the post-interview
conversation off the record. His statement did not dispute what she said
about the content of the post-interview encounter.
NPR stood by its account by the meeting.
On Monday, NPR confirmed the removal of Kelemen, who has covered the
State Department for two decades, and said she was informed that she
would not be traveling but she was not given a reason why.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the III
Hemispheric Anti-Terrorism Ministerial Conference at the Francisco
de Paula Santander General Police Cadet School, in Bogota, Colombia
January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo
"We respectfully ask the State Department to reconsider and allow
Michele to travel on the plane for this trip," Tandon of SDCA said.
Pompeo, who is due to make an official visit to Ukraine starting on
Thursday, will be the most senior U.S. official to travel to that
country since the impeachment process began.
His relationship with the press has been tense since his first
months in the job, but it has deteriorated since the impeachment
inquiry as Pompeo, a former U.S. congressman, expressed dismay over
reporters' insistence to ask about Ukraine.
The House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power in his
dealings with Ukraine and obstruction of Congress, setting up the
trial in the Republican-led Senate. Trump, who denies wrongdoing and
has condemned the impeachment process, is unlikely to be convicted.
At the heart of the impeachment lies $391 million in aid to Ukraine,
which Trump is accused of freezing until Kiev helped with
investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe
Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Congress had approved the funds to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed
separatists. The money was ultimately provided in September after
the controversy spilled into public view.
Pompeo has occasionally snapped back at reporters for asking
impeachment-related questions, describing the media's persistent
interest in the issue as "silliness" and "noise." He has said he
supports all State Department employees, but has declined, to date,
to publicly offer words of support for Yovanovitch specifically.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Peter Cooney and Leslie
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