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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

NPR sends letter to State Dept. demanding answers for reporter's removal from trip

NPR is demanding answers from the State Department over its decision to remove one of the outlet's reporters from a press group traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a trip to Europe and Central Asia this week.
In a letter to the State Department on Tuesday, NPR President and CEO John Lansing and Senior Vice President of News Nancy Barnes called for the department to explain its “justification” for removing NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen from the press group.
They also asked the department to provide any documents concerning the decision, including any correspondence focused on the reporter, and for “clarification” on whether Kelemen and other NPR reporters would be barred from Pompeo’s future travels. 
The letter was posted to NPR's website on Tuesday evening.
"If, in fact, the State Department has removed her from the trip, we ask that you immediately reverse that decision and permit Kelemen to join her press colleagues on the trip," the NPR executives wrote to Pompeo.
The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.
The letter served as the latest episode in a dispute stemming from an interview Pompeo conducted with a different reporter for the outlet last week.
Following that interview, which touched on issues at the center of the ongoing Senate impeachment trial, NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly said that Pompeo lashed out at her, using expletives and quizzing her on whether she could spot Ukraine on a map.
Pompeo on Saturday accused Kelly of lying about the terms for the interview and alleged that she had disclosed aspects of their discussion that were meant to be off the record.
Two days later, an organization representing correspondents covering the State Department announced that Kelemen was removed from the press pool that was expected to cover Pompeo's upcoming trip, which is set to begin on Wednesday. 
“We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange,” Shaun Tandon, president of the State Department Correspondents' Association, said in the statement.
Kelly has stood by her work, saying that she confirmed with Pompeo's staff the night before the interview that she would be asking about Ukraine.
Pompeo said during the interview that he believed the interview would focus on Iran.
Kelly, a co-host of NPR's "All Things Considered," has also said that she never agreed to an off-the-record conversation following the interview.
Press organizations and advocacy groups have fiercely condemned the State Department's move.
The White House Correspondents' Association said Tuesday that the "apparent attempt to take punitive action against a news outlet for its reporting is outrageous and contrary to American values."
President Trump, meanwhile, praised Pompeo amid the dust-up. In public remarks from the White House on Tuesday, he said of Pompeo, "That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you yesterday. I think you did a good job on her, actually."

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