Mike Pompeo, who was in Manhattan to give a speech not that long ago, got himself worked into a froth in a conflict with a national journalist. They offered diametrically opposed versions of what happened.
One of them is lying. Although Mr. Pompeo is a former Wichita businessman who’s even spent some time at The Mercury’s office, well, we have to say we don’t believe him.
Mr. Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, gave an interview to Mary Louise Kelly, a veteran reporter for National Public Radio. He says he agreed only to talk about Iran. He cut off the interview when she asked him awkward questions about Ukraine. As you probably know, the subject of Ukraine is extremely touchy because it’s the focus of the impeachment case against President Donald Trump, Mr. Pompeo’s boss.
Mr. Pompeo then summoned Ms. Kelly to an office where he yelled and cursed at her and challenged her to point out Ukraine on a map, which she says she did. He infers, without directly saying it, that she didn’t. Anyway, he also says that the entire second exchange — in which he said no Americans care about Ukraine — was off the record. She says she never agreed to that.
Here’s the thing: Ms. Kelly has been at this for a long time, and is a very solid journalist. She has a written record of exchanges with Mr. Pompeo’s staff in which it’s made clear that she would ask about both Iran and Ukraine. There’s no evidence she broke any sort of deal. Mr. Pompeo’s attempt to claim that she did undermines his credibility on the whole matter.
There’s also no reason to think Ms. Kelly would agree to go off-the-record with the U.S. Secretary of State. Reporters are very reluctant to agree to do that, particularly when dealing with a very high-ranking government official such as Mr. Pompeo.
Meanwhile Mr. Pompeo has every reason after the fact to lie to try to make Ms. Kelly look bad. It also happens to fit with a trusted Trump Administration tactic — demonize the media.
Here’s what we think really happened: Ms. Kelly drilled Mr. Pompeo with hard questions that he didn’t want to answer. He tried to duck and then cut off the interview when she parried his attempts to brush her off. Then he blew up at her when she put the microphone away.
When she reported all that, the only thing he felt he could do was to deny it and say she made it all up because, like all journalists, she has “an agenda” to stick it to Donald Trump. With only two people in the room and no recording equipment, he knew it would come down to her word against his.
Look, it’s possible that we’ve got this all wrong. We’d welcome proof to the contrary, since we think highly of Mr. Pompeo’s intellect, and because he’s a Kansan, after all. But unfortunately all the evidence and the patterns point to this conclusion.