- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2020

President Trump on Tuesday publicly praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his handling of a contentious interview with National Public Radio (NPR) last week.

“That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you,” Mr. Trump said during a press conference at the White House unveiling his new Middle East peace plan, drawing laughter from the audience. “I think you did a good job on her, actually.”

Mr. Pompeo and NPR made headlines in recent days regarding an ongoing saga that began with claims by NPR “All Things Considered” host Mary Louise Kelly that the secretary ridiculed and shouted at her following a contentious on-air interview at the department’s headquarters.

The department defended Mr. Pompeo, who said in a statement that Ms. Kelly had “lied” to him about the scope of the interview — in particular pointed questions on Ukraine — and “chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency” by disclosing the post-interview confrontation. NPR denied the charges, and produced emails with a State Department press officer before the interview specifying that Ukraine could be brought up in the interview.

The dust-up escalated on Monday when the State Department Correspondents’ Association said the department denied an NPR reporter a seat on Mr. Pompeo’s plane for an upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday demanded the State Department reinstate the reporter who was barred from traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on an upcoming trip abroad.

“Punishing a credible U.S. news outlet by kicking their reporter off of the secretary’s plane is something we would expect from an authoritarian dictator,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, in a statement Tuesday.

The ongoing dispute has sparked waves of criticism from lawmakers and press associations who have condemned Mr. Pompeo’s behavior and expressed “profound disappointment” of the dust-up.

“It is completely unacceptable for the chief diplomat of the United States to imitate President Trump’s penchant for treating the press like the enemy,” Mr. Menendez said.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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