In his response Saturday, Mr. Pompeo did not refute Ms. Kelly’s claims. Instead, he accused Ms. Kelly of lying to him about how she would conduct the interview. This was an apparent reference to his complaint, which he made during her questioning, that he had expected to talk only about Iran, not about Ukraine. In fact, emails obtained by The Post show that Ms. Kelly explicitly informed Mr. Pompeo’s staff that she would ask about Ukraine. In accusing Ms. Kelly of lying about this, it was Mr. Pompeo who proved dishonest, or at best misinformed by his staff.
What makes the NPR contretemps particularly remarkable is not Mr. Pompeo’s thin skin. It isn’t surprising if he is reluctant to answer questions about his failure to publicly defend patriotic officials who have been smeared, his instructions to the State Department not to cooperate with a legitimate House investigation or his own knowledge of Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for personal political advantage.
What’s remarkable is Mr. Pompeo’s contention that he should not have to answer questions about Ukraine — an ally that the United States should be doing everything possible to help as it attempts to pull out of Russia’s corrupt, lawless orbit. Americans do not care, he argued. It is Mr. Pompeo’s job to explain why they should care — about Ukraine and all the other countries that many Americans might not be able to find on a map but whose interests are intertwined with those of the United States.
It is also his job to set an example for other nations of how leaders in a democracy should interact with a free press. Instead of doing so, on Monday, he took his attacks to another level, removing NPR correspondent Michele Kelemen from his upcoming trip to, among other places, Ukraine. “We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio,” said Shaun Tandon, president of the State Department Correspondents’ Association.
The president also made things much worse. Mr. Trump retweeted a comment from right-wing agitator Mark R. Levin, who asked, “Why does NPR still exist?” and accused the organization of being a “Democrat Party propaganda operation.” The president added: “A very good question!”
Mr. Trump’s menacing tweet does not express some principled concern about taxpayer money paying for a news operation. (NPR is partially funded by the federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting.) He would no doubt defend NPR if its coverage of him were fawning. The president was upset that a reporter did her job, daring to ask the secretary of state a relevant question. So he threatened NPR.
“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,” Mr. Pompeo fumed on Saturday. He’s hardly the first top official to feel aggrieved by perceived media bias. But it’s the president’s immediate escalation to questioning NPR’s right to exist that demonstrates an integrity deficiency.