- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended himself Saturday against accusations from a National Public Radio (NPR) anchor who claims he shouted at her in an obscenity-laced tirade after a contentious interview she conducted with him at department headquarters on Friday.

In a statement circulated Saturday morning, Mr. Pompeo asserted that NPR journalist Mary Louise Kelly “lied” to him, first about what the interview was going to focus on and then later that a post-interview discussion between the two would be “off the record.”

“It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency,” the secretary of state said in the statement. “This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this 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.”

Department officials circulated the statement after NPR made headlines by airing Ms. Kelly’s 11-minute interview with Mr. Pompeo, as well as a short segment in which Ms. Kelly claimed she was ridiculed and shouted at by the secretary of state in his private office at department headquarters.

According to Ms. Kelly, the incident occurred after the interview, in which Mr. Pompeo had resisted her questions about the case of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch.

Ms. Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post in Kiev last year, has been a central figure in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump on Capitol Hill. She has testified that she believes the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and his associates engaged in a deliberate smear campaign against her.

Ms. Yovanovitch has also testified that she felt threatened by the president, himself, based on the transcript of a phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s president in which Mr. Trump said she would “go through some things,” as well as tweets in which Mr. Trump disparaged her.

Mr. Pompeo has faced criticism in recent months by some in the U.S. foreign policy community who say the secretary of state should have more publicly and explicitly stood up for Ms. Yovanovitch, a 33-year career U.S. diplomat.

During the taping of Friday’s interview — the first half of which was focused on Iran policy — Ms. Kelly suddenly asked the secretary of state he if owed Ms. Yovanovitch an apology.

Mr. Pompeo initially responded by telling Ms. Kelly that he had “agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran, that’s what I intend to do.”

Ms. Kelly countered by saying: “I confirmed with your staff last night that I would talk about Iran and Ukraine.”

Mr. Pompeo then said: “I just don’t have anything else to say about that this morning.”

Ms. Kelly then pressed again about Ms. Yovanovitch, at which point the secretary of state responded that he has “defended every single person on this team.”

When Ms. Kelly then pressed again, asking whether Mr. Pompeo could identify past remarks in which he specifically defended Ms. Yovanovitch, he responded: “I’ve said all I’m going to say today. Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that.”

The interview was then cut short by one of Mr. Pompeo’s aides, moments after which, Ms. Kelly claims she was asked to meet with the secretary of state in his private quarters at the State Department without a tape recorder.

At that time, according to Ms. Kelly, Mr. Pompeo expressed outrage over being questioned about Ukraine. “He shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted,” Ms. Kelly claimed in a subsequent NPR broadcast.

“He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the f-word in that sentence, and many others,” she said, adding that Mr. Pompeo then asked her if she could find Ukraine on a map and proceeded to call out for his aides to bring a world map with no country names on it.

Ms. Kelly claimed she to pointed to Ukraine on the map, after which Mr. Pompeo put the map away and said: “‘People will hear about this.’”

Mr. Pompeo sharply disputed Ms. Kelly in his statement Saturday, asserting that she had “lied to me twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record.”

At the end of his statement, Mr. Pompeo added: “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

It was not immediately clear what the remark was referring to.

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