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Political Notebook

After berating reporter, Pompeo says she lied

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to him.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to him.EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out Saturday at an NPR reporter who accused him of shouting expletives at her after she asked him in an interview about Ukraine. In a direct and personal attack, Pompeo said the journalist had “lied” to him and he called her conduct “shameful.”

NPR said it stood by Mary Louise Kelly’s reporting.

Pompeo claimed in a statement that the incident was “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt” President Trump and his administration. Pompeo, a former CIA director and Republican congressman from Kansas who is one of Trump’s closest allies in the Cabinet, asserted, ‘‘It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.”

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It is extraordinary for a secretary of state to make such a personal attack on a journalist, but he is following the lead of Trump, who has repeatedly derided what he calls “fake news” and ridiculed individual reporters.

In Friday’s interview, Pompeo responded testily when Kelly asked him about Ukraine and specifically whether he defended or should have defended Marie Yovanovitch, the US ambassador in Kyiv whose ouster figured in Trump’s impeachment.

“I have defended every State Department official,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve built a great team. The team that works here is doing amazing work around the world. . . . I’ve defended every single person on this team.”

This has been a sensitive point for Pompeo. As a Trump loyalist, he has been publicly silent as the president and his allies have disparaged the nonpartisan career diplomats, including Yovanovitch, who have testified in the impeachment hearings.

After the NPR interview, Kelly said she was taken to Pompeo’s private living room, where he shouted at her “for about the same amount of time as the interview itself,” using the “F-word” repeatedly. She said he was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine.

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Pompeo, in his statement, did not deny shouting at Kelly and did not apologize. Instead, he accused her of lying to him when setting up the interview, which he apparently expected would be limited to questions about Iran, and for supposedly agreeing not to discuss the post-interview meeting.

Kelly said Pompeo asked whether she thought Americans cared about Ukraine and if she could find the country on a map.

“I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing,” she said in discussing the encounter on “All Things Considered.” “I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’”

Associated Press

Biden picks up another endorsement in Iowa

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Representative Cindy Axne of Iowa is endorsing former vice president Joe Biden, giving him another prominent backer with just over a week until the state’s caucuses.

Axne, a freshman Democrat who unseated a Republican incumbent, hails from the kind of swing district that was key to the party’s takeover of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, and will be crucial to its continued control.

Biden has now been endorsed by two of Iowa’s three Democrats in Congress.

New York Times