After Mike Pompeo berated NPR journalist Mary Louise Kelly last month in an expletive-filled rant for turning a discussion about Iran to Ukraine and ex-US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the State Department took an apparent retaliatory step against one of Kelly's colleagues: Michele Kelemen was barred from the press pool accompanying Pompeo on a trip to the UK, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Now, the secretary of state is defending that move, his thoughts revealed in what Kelemen calls an "interesting exchange" between himself and Kazakhstan's Radio Azattyq. "I always bring a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors, and that's simply telling the truth and being honest," Pompeo said, per Axios. "And when they'll do that, they get to participate, and if they don't, it's just not appropriate—frankly, it's not fair to the rest of the journalists ... participating alongside them."
When the interviewer followed up with "But what kind of message will it send?," Pompeo threw out a descriptor that's been used by his boss in the past. "It's a perfect message," he replied. "It's a perfect message about press freedoms. They're free to ask questions. ... It's wide open in America. I love it. I hope the rest of the world will follow our press freedoms and the great things we do in the United States." Pompeo also denied his dealings with Kelly were a big deal: "I didn't have a confrontational interview with an NPR reporter any more than I have confrontational interviews all the time." (More on the Kelly-Pompeo dust-up, as well as Kelly's take on journalism's role in dealing with political figures.)