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Pompeo Denounced for 'Insulting and Contemptuous' Statement Lashing Out at NPR's Mary Louise Kelly

 The secretary of state's statement was framed as "a shameful assault on press freedom."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly in a statement Saturday a day after she pressed Pompeo on issues including former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and he reportedly yelled at her with expletives and demanded she identify Ukraine on a map.

In her Friday interview with Pompeo, Kelly asked about the administration's Iran policy and pressed Pompeo about when—since he said he has "defended every State Department official"—he had done so for Yovanovitch.

He did not point to any such remarks.

NPR reported,

Immediately after the questions on Ukraine, the interview concluded. Pompeo stood, leaned in, and silently glared at Kelly for several seconds before leaving the room.

A few moments later, an aide asked Kelly to follow her into Pompeo's private living room at the State Department without a recorder. The aide did not say the ensuing exchange would be off the record.

Pompeo then went on to attempt to berate Kelly.

Pompeo, in his statement, accused Kelly of lying about having the follow-up conversation off the record, asserted her conduct was "shameful," and called the indent "another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this administration."

He also suggested, contrary to Kelly's account, that she did not point to Ukraine on a map. "It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine," he wrote.

Pompeo's remarks drew condemnation from journalists including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who called them "a shameful assault on #PressFreedom. Americans deserve a Secretary of State that is diplomatic, can answer foreign policy questions honestly, upholds our values and respects the press. This one doesn't."

Wired also pointed to its reporting from October that "Pompeo seems to particularly bristle under tough questioning from female reporters."

Pompeo's Saturday attack on Kelly also sparked five Democratic senators—Robert Menendez (N.J.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and Cory Booker (N.J.)—to write to Pompeo, denouncing the secretary of state's comments as "insulting and contemptuous."

"Instead of calling journalists 'liars" and insulting their intelligence when they ask you hard questions you would rather not answer," the senators wrote, "your oath of office places on you a duty and obligation to engage respectfully and transparently."

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