NPR is once again defending one if its star reporters for the way an interview was conducted. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded Saturday following media reports that said he scolded an NPR reporter after they sat for an interview — one that Pompeo claimed afterward had strayed from an agreement he had reached with the journalist.
In the statement, Pompeo claimed Mary Louise Kelly lied to him, called her behavior “shameful” and insinuated she mistook a country in South Asia for Ukraine on a map. It’s not the first time Kelly has come under fire for the way she conducts herself.
“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice,” Pompeo said in the statement. “First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.”
NPR has denied both claims.
Pompeo called the confrontation another example of how an “unhinged” media wants to hurt the Trump administration.
“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.”
After Pompeo’s statement, journalists and congressional Democrats circled the wagons around Kelly – a prominent liberal reporter.
Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post, for example, called Pompeo’s statement “a shameful assault on #PressFreedom.”
That comment drew a sharp rebuke from Andrew Surabian, a former special assistant to President Trump.
“In what universe is complaining about a reporter breaking an off the record agreement an ‘assault on press freedom’?” Surabian wrote.
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
“If @NPRKelly did indeed break an off the record agreement, she should be fired & her colleagues should be condemning her, not holding her up as a resistance hero.”
Pompeo concluded his statement by writing, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”
The remark was an apparent reference to an interaction between Pompeo and Kelly in Pompeo’s office after the recorded interview ended.
Kelly said Pompeo asked her if she could find Ukraine on a map and when she said she could he had an aide pull out a blank map of the world and directed her to identify the country.
Kelly contends she did, while Pompeo is asserting she failed the simple test.
Pompeo said he agreed to discuss only Iran in the recorded interview, not Ukraine. But Kelly pressed him on Ukraine, including questions on the ouster of former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Kelly told him she had confirmed with his staff the evening before that they would talk about both countries, which he disputed. And while Pompeo’s statement said Kelly promised the discussion in his office would be off the record, NPR reported Kelly was never told that.
“Nor would I have agreed,” she said.
NPR said it stands behind its report. “We will not be intimidated,” NPR CEO John Lansing quipped on Saturday.
Kelly, though, has a long history of controversial interviews. Political observers accused her of trying to fuel bad blood between London Mayor Sadiq Khan and President Trump. Kelly, it is said, ‘baited” the mayor until the conversation became heated. Opinion pieces stated she went “ballistic.”
Regular listeners to her show have complained for years about her method of interviewing and the subtle swipes she takes in supposedly “unbiased” news reports.
One listener posted online, “Mary Louise Kelly’s sneering, condescending on-air presence suffocates my appetite for the day. Cease and desist…please!!!”
In December 2018, NPR was forced to issue a lengthy correction after falsely accusing Donald Trump Jr. of lying to the Senate about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, claiming his statements contradicted Michael Cohen’s plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
NPR actually has a web-page listing corrections for news stories they get wrong during the day. It lists thousands of factual errors made over the last few years with many attributed to Mary Louise Kelly.
Former NPR CEO Ken Stern wrote in a column, “Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio.”
–Metro Voice and wire services