The US secretary of state accused NPR and its veteran reporter of lying to him about the interview subject. NPR insists that Pompeo shouted expletives at their radio host after she asked about the Ukraine controversy.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday slammed the media after a heated interview with National Public Radio (NPR).
Pompeo's criticism comes a day after veteran NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly accused Pompeo of berating her after she asked him about Ukraine during an interview.
The US secretary of state has come under fire by critics who say the Department of State did not protect Marie Yovanovitch, a former ambassador to Ukraine, from political attacks before she was ousted by President Donald Trump last year.
The president's decision to remove Yovanovitch became a key event that led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — two charges related to Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival, and subsequently trying to block the House investigation.
In January reports emerged that Yovanovitch was illegally placed under surveillance, an issue that Pompeo tried to evade in the interview.
'Bangladesh is not Ukraine'
Pompeo, in an unusual statement on Saturday, said NPR and Kelly lied to him about the interview topic, and accused them of going public with the intense discussion that followed his on-air interview.
"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," Pompeo said.
According to Kelly, Pompeo asked her, "Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?" in an exchange in which he used swear words and demanded that she point to Ukraine on an unmarked map.
Kelly said she correctly identified the country.
"It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine," the State Department statement said, suggesting that Pompeo's camp did bring out an unmarked map to Kelly.
NPR has stood by the radio reporter and former national security correspondent. Nancy Barnes, NPR's senior vice president of news, said: "Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report.''
Pompeo slammed by Democrats
Pompeo's statement drew quick condemnation from leading Democrats in the US Senate, who criticized the "insulting and contemptuous comments."
In a letter from four top Democrats, including Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the lawmakers said Pompeo should be more respectful toward journalists.
"Instead of calling journalists 'liars' and insulting their intelligence when they ask you hard questions you would rather not answer, your oath of office places on you a duty and obligation to engage respectfully and transparently,'' the letter to Pompeo said.
Trump has repeatedly slammed what he calls "fake news,'' often insulting individual reporters. In one instance, the US president mocked a New York Times reporter with a physical disability.
Read more: US media fight back against Trump attacks
shs/stb (AP, dpa, Reuters)