NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points'

NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly dismissed the idea that journalists interview top government officials to score "political points," pushing back on Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Pompeo: Afghanistan 'reduction of violence is working' Pompeo accuses China and Iran of hiding coronavirus outbreak MORE's remarks following a clash between the pair after an interview last week.

Kelly, co-host of NPR's "All Things Considered," wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday night that being able to hold powerful people accountable is "both a privilege and a responsibility."

"There is a reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution. There is a reason it matters that people in positions of power — people charged with steering the foreign policy of entire nations — be held to account. The stakes are too high for their impulses and decisions not to be examined in as thoughtful and rigorous an interview as is possible," she wrote.

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"Journalists don’t sit down with senior government officials in the service of scoring political points. We do it in the service of asking tough questions, on behalf of our fellow citizens. And then sharing the answers — or lack thereof — with the world."

Kelly's op-ed came days after a run-in with Pompeo following an interview, in which the reporter said the secretary of State swore at her, questioned whether Americans care about Ukraine and quizzed her on whether she could point to Ukraine on a map.

Pompeo lashed out on Saturday, accusing her of lying about the terms of the interview and violating an agreement to keep part of their discussion off the record while asserting that the incident was "another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE and this Administration."

He also seemingly suggested that she couldn't find Ukraine on a map.

The feud escalated when the State Department reportedly told another NPR reporter that they were being removed from the secretary's upcoming overseas trip, sparking backlash and calls from journalist advocacy groups to reverse the decision.

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Kelly noted in her op-ed that in January she interviewed not only Pompeo, but also Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister. That interview with Zarif in Tehran came just "four days after an American drone strike had killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani," she wrote, outlining how she pressed the Iranian diplomat in that interview.

"I write about all this now to refocus attention on the substance of the interviews, which has been overshadowed by Mr. Pompeo’s subsequently swearing at me, calling me a liar and challenging me to find Ukraine on an unmarked map," Kelly explained.

"For the record, I did."

"That’s not the point. The point is that recently the risk of miscalculation — of two old adversaries misreading each other and accidentally escalating into armed confrontation — has felt very real," she continued.

"It occurs to me that swapping insults through interviews with journalists such as me might, terrifyingly, be as close as the top diplomats of the United States and Iran came to communicating this month."