White House Correspondents’ Association blasts State for ‘punitive action’ against NPR
The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) on Tuesday criticized the State Department for removing an NPR reporter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia and called for it to reverse the decision.
“The State Department’s apparent attempt to take punitive action against a news outlet for its reporting is outrageous and contrary to American values,” WCHA president Jonathan Karl said in a statement.
“The WHCA calls on the State Department to reverse this ill-conceived decision. We stand with our colleagues at NPR and the State Department Correspondents’ Association,” he added.
The removal of NPR reporter Michele Kelemen from the trip was the latest fallout between the State Department and the news organization after NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly said last week on “All Things Considered” that Pompeo, during an interview about Ukraine, cursed at her and asked her if she could locate the country on a map.
Pompeo responded over the weekend, calling Kelly a liar in an official statement from the State Department. Pompeo accused Kelly of lying about the setup for the interview and keeping the post-interview conversation off the record.
Kelly, a veteran NPR reporter, has said that she told Pompeo’s office prior to the interview that she would be asking about Ukraine. She also said she had not agreed to keep the post-interview conversation off the record.
Pompeo in his statement did not take issue with other parts of Kelly’s account, including that he brought out an unmarked map and asked her to find Ukraine on it.
Kelly said she pointed to Ukraine on the map. Pompeo, in the Saturday statement, offered a cryptic comment about Bangladesh not being Ukraine.
Pompeo has come under heavy criticism from the media over the issue, but President Trump offered him his backing during public remarks on Tuesday, saying, “You did a good job on her.”
On Saturday, Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) penned a letter to Pompeo, criticizing his behavior with Kelly during their interview.
“As the United States’ chief diplomat, the person most responsible for promoting and championing American values all over the world, Secretary Pompeo should know that freedom of the press is a fundamental human right, a foundational pillar of democracy, and an indispensable check on authoritarian overreach,” Menendez said Tuesday.
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