The U.S. State Department removed a National Public Radio reporter from the press pool for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming foreign trip, a press association and NPR said on Monday, days after Pompeo angrily responded to another NPR journalist's interview with him.
The removal of NPR reporter Michele Kelemen, who was part of the travelling pool of correspondents with Pompeo on his planned trip to the UK, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia, can be seen only as retaliation for her colleague's interview, the State Department Correspondents' Association (SDCA) said.
The State Department press corps has a long tradition of accompanying secretaries of state on their travels and we find it unacceptable to punish an individual member of our association, Shaun Tandon, the head of the association, said in a statement.
Pompeo was interviewed on Friday by NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, and was asked repeatedly about Ukraine and ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during a testy nine-minute exchange.
Yovanovitch's removal was a key event in the actions that prompted the impeachment of President Donald Trump by the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives last month.
Following the interview, Kelly said Pompeo cursed at her and repeatedly used the F-word and asked her: Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the reporter had lied in setting up the interview and in agreeing to conduct the post-interview conversation off the record. His statement did not dispute what she said about the content of the post-interview encounter. NPR stood by its account by the meeting.
On Monday, NPR confirmed the removal of Kelemen, who has covered the State Department for two decades, and said she was informed that she would not be travelling but she was not given a reason why.
We respectfully ask the State Department to reconsider and allow Michele to travel on the plane for this trip, Tandon of SDCA said.