Pompeo's State Department boots NPR reporter from trip abroad

Mike Pompeo apparently thought it'd be a good idea to escalate his one-sided conflict with NPR. It appears he thought wrong.
Image: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at Haneda Airport, in Tokyo
U.S. Secretary of State Mike PompeoAndrew Harnik / Pool via Reuters
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By Steve Benen

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to head abroad later this week, with visits planned for the U.K., Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The diplomat's schedule may even include a stop in Ukraine, which is a country the Republican recently said Americans don't "care about."

But when Pompeo departs, one prominent American news organization reportedly won't be joining him for his overseas trip. NBC News reported yesterday:

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

The State Department Correspondents' Association 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.

As best as I can tell, the State Department hasn't offered a public explanation for excluding NPR's Michele Kelemen, which only helped fuel suspicions that the move was designed to be vindictive.

For those who may need a refresher, Mike Pompeo sat down on Friday with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, and as the broadcast made clear, it did not go well for the controversial cabinet secretary. But after the interview, the Kansas Republican made matters worse, throwing an obscenity-laced tirade while upbraiding the journalist who, by all appearances, did nothing wrong.

A day later, Pompeo took this in an even less constructive direction, issuing a strange written statement in which he falsely accused the NPR journalist of lying, while lashing out at what he described as the "unhinged" American media, which he accused of engaging in some kind of conspiracy against the administration.

He could've left it at that, but apparently his department thought it'd be a good idea to escalate matters even more by removing a different NPR journalist from the group of media professionals who'll be traveling with the secretary this week.

In case this isn't painfully obvious, Pompeo and his team aren't just retaliating against a news outlet that made the secretary look bad; they also appear to be sending a signal to other news organizations: if you ask questions Pompeo doesn't like, you may face reprisals, too.

As part of his tirade over the weekend, the ostensible diplomat said he was concerned about "decency" and "integrity." Given the circumstances, perhaps those are words he should avoid for a while.

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