Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip

Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip

The ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday demanded the State Department reinstate an NPR reporter on Secretary Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDemocratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment MORE’s trip to Europe and Central Asia. 

The journalist was removed from the group of reporters traveling with the top official after a tense interview from a fellow NPR reporter. 

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMenendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees Senators condemn UN 'blacklisting' of US companies in Israeli settlements Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle MORE (D-N.J.) slammed the removal of NPR reporter Michele Keleman, suggesting the decision undermines America’s ideals of an open and free press. 

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“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 in a statement. 

“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,” he added.

An official for the State Department was not immediately available for comment. 

Menendez’s statement comes after the State Department of Correspondents' Association announced Monday that  Keleman was removed from the press pool for Pompeo’s international trip. 

“We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange,” Shaun Tandon, president of the State Department Correspondents' Association, said in the statement.

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Keleman’s removal followed NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly’s report on “All Things Considered” that Pompeo forcefully questioned, using profanity, whether Americans care about Ukraine and asked if the veteran journalist could find the country on a map. 

Menendez said it is “completely unacceptable” for Pompeo to “imitate President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE’s penchant for treating the press like the enemy.

“The American people deserve to hear how the State Department is protecting and advancing our interests and values around the world. I call on every member of the U.S. Congress to defend the First Amendment and call upon the Secretary of State to reinstate NPR’s participation in his upcoming travels,” he said. “We have a responsibility to stand up for the fundamental right of free expression and free press.” 

Menendez and fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students MORE (Va.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMassachusetts Democrats question deployment of Border Patrol teams to sanctuary cities Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Senate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign Senate Democrats introduce legislation to change impeachment trial rules Hillicon Valley: Facebook suspends misinformation networks targeting US | Lawmakers grill census officials on cybersecurity | Trump signs order to protect GPS | Dem senators propose federal facial recognition moratorium MORE (Ore.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBloomberg set to debate in Nevada after qualifying in new poll Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments MORE (N.J.), sent a letter to Pompeo on Saturday criticizing Pompeo’s behavior during his interview with Kelly. 

The Democratic senators wrote that Pompeo’s “insulting and contemptuous comments are beneath the office of the Secretary of State.”