State Department removes NPR reporter from Pompeo trip

The State Department has removed an NPR reporter from a group of journalists traveling this week to Europe and Central Asia with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo promotes economic ties, takes aim at corruption in Africa visit Russian foreign minister says he sensed 'more constructive' approach after meeting with Pompeo Donald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim MORE, days after Pompeo publicly feuded with the news outlet following a tense interview.

An organization representing correspondents covering the State Department made the announcement in a statement on Monday. The group says it believes the removal of Michele Kelemen from the press pool was a response to the flare-up between Pompeo and her NPR colleague Mary Louise Kelly. 

“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.

“Michele is a consummate professional who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades. We respectfully ask the State Department to reconsider and allow Michele to travel on the plane for this trip,” Tandon added.

The State Department and Kelemen did not respond to requests for comment.

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A spokesperson for NPR said that "Michele Kelemen was informed that she would not be traveling. She was not given a reason."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement on Monday evening criticizing the move.

"The State Department cannot retaliate against a news outlet because one of its reporters asked tough questions. It is the job of reporters to ask the tough questions, not be polite company," said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, in a statement. 

Pompeo on Saturday lashed out at Kelly, co-host of “All Things Considered,” and accused her of lying after she disclosed on-air that a heated exchange had occurred between them.

"NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record," Pompeo said in a statement released by the State Department.

"It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency," he continued, calling the incident "another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE and this Administration."

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Kelly revealed during a radio broadcast Friday that Pompeo had given her a private tongue-lashing after an interview in which she raised questions about Ukraine.

Kelly said she had confirmed with Pompeo's staff the night before the interview that she would be asking about Ukraine. Pompeo believed the interview would be centered on Iran.

Following their interview, Kelly said, Pompeo forcefully questioned and cursed at her.

“He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence and many others,” Kelly told "All Things Considered" co-host Ari Shapiro on Friday. 

Pompeo also quizzed the veteran journalist on whether she could find Ukraine on a blank map, which Kelly said she did after his aides brought one in.

In his fiery response the next day, Pompeo implied she had misidentified the country.

"It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine," his statement said.

Pompeo is expected to travel to Ukraine on Thursday for a trip that was postponed in December amid a crisis in relations between the U.S. and Iran.

Updated at 9:04 p.m.