Shouts, glares and unprintable words: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lost his temper at a journalist after she questioned him on the administration’s stance on Ukraine, the country at the heart of US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
It began when Pompeo gave an early morning interview to National Public Radio (NPR).
Much of the discussion dealt with Iran, but journalist Mary Louise Kelly closed by asking Pompeo about Ukraine.
Trump is accused of pressuring Kiev to investigate his potential election challenger, former US vice president Joe Biden, and of blocking congressional efforts to probe that abuse.
Pompeo has himself been criticized for failing to defend former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly called home last spring after being subjected to what she said was a “smear campaign” led by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
“Do you owe ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology?” Kelly asked Pompeo.
A tense exchange followed, wherein Pompeo said he had “defended every State Department official,” while Kelly asked, in vain, when he had publicly defended Yovanovitch.
“I’ve said all I’m going to say today. Thank you,” Pompeo said finally, ending the interview.
However, the story did not end there, and Kelly related the rest in an NPR broadcast on Friday evening, an account which Pompeo on Saturday disputed.
She said she thanked Pompeo, who did not reply, but leaned in and glared at her before leaving the room. A staffer then invited Kelly to Pompeo’s private living room, without her recorder.
There, Pompeo “was waiting and... he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself lasted,” Kelly said.
“He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine,” Kelly said, adding that he asked her: “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” in an exchange peppered with profane words.
Pompeo then asked his advisers to bring out a map of the world without the countries labeled, to see whether Kelly knew where Ukraine was located.
“I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away,” Kelly said.
“People will hear about this,” Pompeo said.
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo accused Kelly of lying to him, twice. The first time, which he did not elaborate upon, was “in setting up our interview.”
He also alleged that the post-interview “conversation” was supposed to be off the record.
“It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency. This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this administration,” Pompeo said.
He then implied that Kelly did not, in fact, identify Ukraine on the map.
“It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine,” he said.
Kelly said she was not told the conversation would be off the record, nor would she have agreed to those terms if she were asked.
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