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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 PompeoMike PompeoUS Olympic Committee urges Congress not to boycott Games in China Pompeo on CIA recruitment: We can't risk national security to appease 'liberal, woke agenda' DNC gathers opposition research on over 20 potential GOP presidential candidates 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) MenendezTensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy Senate Democrats ramp up push to limit Biden's war powers Democrats reintroduce legislation to ban 'ghost guns' 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 TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers 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 KaineSenate Democrats ramp up push to limit Biden's war powers Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force MORE (Va.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators ask airlines to offer cash refunds for unused flight credits Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' Tensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw MORE (Ore.) and Cory BookerCory BookerPolice reform talks hit familiar stumbling block Almost 20 advocacy groups team up to pressure Congress to pass health care bill for immigrants Biden adds pressure to congressional talks with self-imposed deadlines 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.”