WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to the news that the State Department would deny a National Public Radio correspondent a seat aboard Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's plane for his forthcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia. The decision is the latest escalation from the Trump Administration after an NPR report from Mary Louise Kelly revealed Pompeo shouted and swore at her for asking about his refusal to defend Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during an interview last week.
“As the United States’ chief diplomat, the person most responsible for promoting and championing American values all over the world, Secretary Pompeo should know that freedom of the press is a fundamental human right, a foundational pillar of democracy, and an indispensable check on authoritarian overreach. Punishing a credible U.S. news outlet by kicking their reporter off of the Secretary’s plane is something we would expect from an authoritarian dictator.
“Instead of sending a message to the rest of the world that the U.S. remains committed to fundamental democratic freedoms, including an open and free press, it is completely unacceptable for the chief diplomat of the United States to imitate President Trump’s penchant for treating the press like the enemy. The American people deserve to hear how the State Department is protecting and advancing our interests and values around the world. I call on every member of the U.S. Congress to defend the First Amendment and call upon the Secretary of State to reinstate NPR’s participation in his upcoming travels. We have a responsibility to stand up for the fundamental right of free expression and free press.”
On Saturday, Menendez was joined by fellow Foreign Relations Committee Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in sending a letter to Secretary Pompeo expressing their concerns with the issuing of an official State Department statement attacking NPR’s All Things Considered co-host Mary Louise Kelly. A copy of the letter can be found here.