Pompeo tells Kazakh reporter that barring NPR reporter sent ‘a perfect message about press freedoms’

After the State Department revoked the press credentials of NPR’s Michele Keleman for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Europe and Central Asia, in apparent retaliation for questions Pompeo didn’t like from NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, there were concerns about what kind of message Pompeo sent to the world about America’s commitment to press freedoms. On Sunday, when Pompeo was in Kazakhstan — which has a dismal zero press-freedoms rating from Reporters Without Borders — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Aigerim Toleukhan asked Pompeo. He said the episode sends “a perfect message about press freedoms.”Pompeo can be heard telling Kelly in their interview that he only wanted to discuss Iran, not Ukraine and whether he stood up for America’s former ambassador to Kyiv when President Trump and his allies smeared her. Kelly said after the interview, Pompeo took her into a separate room and berated her at length, using profanities.Pompeo told Toleukhan he didn’t have a “confrontational interview” with Kelly and insisted that reporters “get to ask me any questions, all questions.” As for barring Keleman from his trip, Pompeo said he always brings “a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors, and that’s simply telling the truth and being honest. And when they’ll do that, they get to participate, and if they don’t, it’s just not appropriate” or even “fair to the rest of the journalists who are participating alongside them.” That’s when Toleukhan asked about what message that sends to the world, and Pompeo said “a perfect message.”After Kelly told NPR listeners about Pompeo berating her, Pompeo accused her of lying twice, once while “setting up our interview” and again by not honoring her agreement keep their “post-interview conversation” private. Kelly said she never agreed to go off-the-record — it’s unclear why she would — and she released emails showing she told Pompeo’s staff she intended to ask him about both Iran and Ukraine.More stories from theweek.com Mitch McConnell’s rare blunder John Bolton just vindicated Nancy Pelosi All the president’s turncoats