State Dept. boots NPR reporter from trip after Pompeo spat

Access to the comments Comments
By Dartunorro Clark  with NBC News Politics
Image: Secretary of State Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during an event in Bogota, Colombia on Jan. 20, 2020.   -   Copyright  Luisa Gonzalez Reuters

The State Department on Monday removed a National Public Radio reporter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming trip following a dayslong spat with a different NPR reporter, who said Pompeo berated and cursed after an interview.

The State Department Correspondents' Association in a statement confirmed the decision to remove NPR correspondent Michele Kelemen from Pompeo's plane on his upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia, calling the move "retaliation" after Pompeo's public attack on NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

"The removal of Michele, who was in rotation as the radio pool reporter, comes days after Secretary Pompeo harshly criticized the work of an NPR host. We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange," Shaun Tandon, the association's president, said in a statement.

Kelly said Friday that Pompeo lashed out at her after she pressed him on why he hasn't defended former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was removed as the ambassador by President Donald Trump last year and has been a central figure in his impeachment.

Kelly also said Pompeo asked his aides to bring him a map without country names marked and asked her to identify Ukraine, which she said she located correctly.

Pompeo, who claimed he only agreed to talk about Iran,attacked Kelly on Saturday, claiming "she lied to me" about the interview topics and about their private encounter after the interview being off the record, describing her actions as "shameful." Kelly has said she never agreed to talk off the record

Pompeo did not challenge the details of Kelly's claims about his statements or demeanor during their conversation. NPR released the full, unedited interview with Pompeo on Friday.

Michele Kelemen.
Michele Kelemen.NPR

The association said defended Kelemen in their statement calling her "a consummate professional" who has covered the agency for nearly two decades and asked the department to onsider the decision.

The State Department has not responded to a request for comment.

"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," Tandon said in the statement. "We are committed to doing our part to preserve a respectful, professional relationship with the institution we cover."

Pompeo is slated to travel to five countries from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, including Ukraine, his first trip to the country at the center of Trump's impeachment inquiry. He also plans to visit the U.K, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from Jan 29. to Feb 4.