A reporter for National Public Radio said Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo screamed obscenities and demanded she prove she could find Ukraine on an unmarked map after she asked – and Pompeo refused to answer – whether he owed former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch an apology.
The alleged incident took place after the taping of an interview that aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Friday. Pompeo instead replied to NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly question by saying, “You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran. That’s what I intend to do. I know what our Ukraine policy has been now for the three years of this administration.”
He then repeatedly tried to end the interview as Kelly continued to press him on the matter. To her last question on whether Ukraine policy had been hijacked, Pompeo replied, “I’ve been clear about that. I know exactly what we were doing. I know precisely what the direction the State Department gave to our officials around the world about how to manage our Ukraine policy.”
Kelly told listeners in a broadcast later on NPR that after the interview she was called back into Pompeo’s living room at the State Department, where the outburst then unfolded.
“What is happening (at the end) there is an aide has stopped the interview, said, ‘We’re done, thank you,’ and you heard me thank the secretary,” Kelly said on air after the fact. “He did not reply – he leaned in, glared at me, and then turned and with his aides left the room.”
Kelly said that moments later, “That same staffer who stopped the interview reappeared, asked me to come with her – just me, no recorder – though she did not say we were off the record, nor would I have agreed.”
Kelly was brought to Pompeo’s private living room, she continued, “where he was waiting and where he shouted at me for about (the) same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted.”
Pompeo was displeased about the Ukraine questioning, and asked her, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” Kelly said, adding that “he used the F-word in that sentence and many others.”
Pompeo then asked Kelly if she could find Ukraine on a map, she recounted, and when she said that she could, “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,’” Kelly said. “And then he turned, said he had things to do and I thanked him again for his time and left.”
In a statement Saturday, Pompeo claimed that Kelly “lied to me, twice,” without specifying exactly what was said.
“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record,” he said.
Pompeo in his statement, though, did not dispute Kelly’s overall characterization of their exchange and seemed to corroborate Kelly’s account that he challenged her with an unmarked map.
In response, NPR stood by its reporting.
“Mary Louise Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report,” Nancy Barnes, NPR’s senior vice president of news, said in a statement.
Kelly had said the aide who ushered her over to meet with Pompeo after the interview asked her to come without a recorder, but did not say the exchange would be off the record.
Kelly also said that NPR had reached out to the State Department to inform them that the outlet would be reporting on the interview’s aftermath, but had not heard back. The news comes in light of Pompeo’s impending trip to Ukraine next week – the country at the heart of the currently ongoing impeachment trial.
Several Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to Pompeo on Saturday, expressing “profound disappointment and concern” and slamming the secretary’s statement as “irresponsible.”
“At a time when journalists around the world are being jailed for their reporting — and as in the case of Jamal Khashoggi, killed — your insulting and contemptuous comments are beneath the office of the Secretary of State,” the Democrats said in a letter dated Saturday, referring to the Washington Post columnist who was murdered at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect where Jamal Khashoggi died in 2018.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Veronica Stracqualursi, Jeremy Diamond, Zachary Cohen and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.