Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not deny Saturday that he had lashed out at an NPR reporter after abruptly ending an interview, but claimed in a statement that the (reportedly profanity-laden) "post-interview conversation" between himself and journalist Mary Louise Kelly was off the record.
Kelly, a cohost of the NPR show All Things Considered, interviewed Pompeo at the White House Friday. Although she began with questions about the situation in Iran, she pivoted to Ukraine and the secretary's heavily criticized treatment of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Pompeo refused to answer those questions and said that he had agreed to come on the show to talk about Iran only, to which Kelly replied that she had confirmed with his staff that the interview would cover both Iran and Ukraine. He abruptly ended the interview soon after that exchange.
During the program, which aired on Friday's episode of All Things Considered, Kelly told cohost Ari Shapiro that after Pompeo ended their conversation, "I was taken to the secretary's private living room where he was waiting and where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted.
"He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine," she said. "He asked, do you think Americans care about Ukraine? He used the f-word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, 'People will hear about this.'"
On Saturday, the state department issued an unprecedented official statement on Pompeo's NPR interview, in which the secretary of state accused Kelly of lying about the terms of the interview and violating "the basic rules of journalism and decency." He also insinuated, without providing any evidence, that the veteran national security reporter was unable to identify Ukraine on a map, and had confused it with Bangladesh, an Asian country that shares a border with India.
"This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this administration," Pompeo said in the statement. "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."
The state department's statement seemingly confirmed that Pompeo had indeed asked Kelly to point to Ukraine on an unmarked map. The final sentence in his statement reads, "It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine," which appears to imply that Kelly did not locate the country correctly on a map.
Since Ukraine and Bangladesh are on two separate continents and approximately 3,600 miles apart, people immediately called Pompeo out.
Following Pompeo's statement, All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro reiterated on Twitter that Kelly did not agree to an off-the-record conversation. "As Mary Louise explained, no one requested that it be off the record nor would she have agreed to those terms," he wrote.
NPR Senior Vice President for News Nancy Barnes also pushed back against the secretary of state's accusation in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "Mary Louise Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report," she said.