President Donald Trump appeared to give Secretary of State Mike Pompeo props Tuesday (Jan. 28) for cursing at NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly over her choice of questions in an interview even as there were numerous reports that the State Department had punished a different NPR reporter by kicking her off a planned trip, where she was to have been the pool reporter.
Pool reporters provide coverage of the president to other accredited news outlets.
During joint White House remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, the president’s shout-out to “his great secretary of state” for his work toward peace in the Middle East got a standing ovation. Citing that acclaim, Trump said: “That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you yesterday. I think you did a good job on her.”
Kelly had pressed Pompeo on why he had not publicly defended former Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who the President had demeaned and appeared to threaten. Pompeo claimed it was an ambush question and expressed that with expletives following the interview‘s completion, according to Kelly, as well as the challenge to find Ukraine on an unmarked map.
The president had already taken his own shot at NPR over the weekend in a tweet associating himself with a conservative commentator's criticism of the noncommercial outlet:
The president has been trying to eliminate federal government funding for NPR and other noncommercial media outlets, but Republicans have teamed up with Democrats in Congress to maintain, and even increase, funding.
“It should alarm all Americans that the two highest ranking officials of the United States government have denigrated the institution of a free press by bullying an NPR journalist and arbitrarily restricting access to another,” said Dokhi Fassihian, executive director of journalist advocacy group Reporters Without Borders USA. “Retaliation against journalists flies in the face of the values and freedoms this country stands for, a country these officials have taken an oath to faithfully represent. We are calling on the State Department to immediately allow Michele Keleman to rejoin the Secretary’s press pool and for all administration officials to allow members of the press to do their work unhindered.”