7102 stories
·
2 followers

Why Journalists Believe Mary Louise Kelly

1 Share

Yesterday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bungled an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly and stormed out rather than answer her last questions. (You can listen to their exchange here.) Then Pompeo’s aide made one of the most desirable entreaties a journalist ever hears after an interview: Would Kelly speak to the secretary again, and leave her recording device behind? This invitation is always attractive, because it often means the interview subject is emotional, bereft of judgment, and ready to say something even he knows he shouldn’t say. According to Kelly, who is a contributor to The Atlantic, Pompeo berated her, used profanity, and at one point directed his aide to get a map. He challenged Kelly to identify Ukraine, the largest country wholly within Europe. Pompeo issued a statement today all but confirming Kelly's account.

Pompeo’s only substantive complaint was that Kelly “lied” to him by saying they could speak “off the record” after their interview. This accusation is almost certainly nonsense.

To non-journalists unfamiliar with the press, the accusation probably sounds plausible—that Kelly betrayed Pompeo or, at a minimum, that she allowed him to think that they had agreed that their conversation was off-the-record, and is now cravenly abusing a technicality to expose that conversation to the world. Under this last theory, a journalist might let a source think he is off the record (perhaps because he has invited her to a private space, or asked her to leave her recorder behind) but because he never secured an explicit agreement, the journalist keeps the whole conversation on the record. Call it the “You didn’t say ‘Simon Says’” theory.

Pompeo ended his response by saying, archly, that “Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine”— implying that Kelly misidentified Bangladesh as Ukraine. This stupid, completely implausible dig against Kelly shreds his credibility in two ways. First, it asks us to believe that Kelly, a veteran foreign correspondent, knows less geography than an attentive high school social studies student. Second, by implying this lie rather than stating it, it makes Pompeo sound like exactly the type of coward who would whine that he had been wronged, to shirk responsibility for his unforced errors.

Pompeo is sophisticated. He is an intelligent man who 10 years ago left his job selling oil-rig parts, and has now served the United States as Director of Central Intelligence and Secretary of State. He is therefore in a special (but not small) category of interview subjects who employ people to do nothing but manage their media requests and brief them on how their interviews and media relations should go, and who therefore are expected to know how journalists work. If I interview a person who has never spoken to a journalist before, I am ethically obliged to make sure that person knows that I am a writer and will use any details of our interview for my report, unless we agree to keep those details off-limits. I’ll give a short explanation of what “on the record” means, and how to ask to go “off the record.” But when I interview a politician who has had a tape recorder thrust under his chin hundreds of times before, I assume he knows I am there on behalf of my readers, and will not be chatting privately with him unless we agree, explicitly, to do so.

Mary Louise Kelly undoubtedly has dozens of techniques for making a sophisticated interviewee reveal more than he wishes to reveal, just as Pompeo has dozens of techniques for parrying her. On the air, he resorted to the worst of these techniques, which is simply to flee the interviewer. But his subsequent assumption that she would consent to being browbeaten in private, that he could just stop the interview like a child calling a time-out in a game of street hockey, was both foolish and arrogant. Even kids know that you can call a time-out to let a car pass, but not to stop your opponent from scoring a goal—let alone to stop him from scoring a goal and then give him a noogie.

Pompeo says Kelly’s conduct shows why Americans “distrust many in the media.” One can see why Pompeo might distrust the media: we want him to reveal more than he wants to reveal. (And we seek these revelations routinely, from sophisticated sources of all parties.) But he was the one who scrambled for cover when asked a question, and whose scrambling was revealed, with total transparency, on the air.

He could prove his case by producing messages confirming that NPR agreed to an off-record conversation after the interview. These agreements, even if they were worked out orally with NPR, may have been preserved in dated memoranda from his staff, preparing him for the conversation. But I suspect that his presumption of secrecy, and of his ability to upbraid a reporter without her telling the world about his indiscretion, is yet another instance of incompetence and arrogance, mixed together. Pompeo, not Kelly, is making us all drink this familiar and bitter brew.

Read the whole story
JimB
10 hours ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

What did Donald Trump do today?He tried to explain why he ordered a private citi...

1 Share

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to explain why he ordered a private citizen he supposedly doesn't know to "get rid of" a U.S. ambassador.

ABC News reported today on an audio recording in which Trump demands that Lev Parnas, one of his operatives in the Ukraine scandal, do something about then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it,” Trump said on the tape.

Yovanovitch was a non-political appointee with an anti-corruption portfolio. Trump's operatives, led by his personal fixer Rudy Giuliani, were concerned that she would become an obstacle to their plans to try to force the Ukrainian government to intervene in the 2020 election. She was physically and possibly electronically surveilled by Giuliani's associates. 

Trump himself hinted in the July 25th call, in which he presented his demands for Ukraine's "investigation" of his political rival, that Yovanovitch was "going to go through some things." Later, Giuliani bragged to reporters about having engineered her removal.

All of this was known before the recording surfaced—but Trump directly telling Parnas to "take her out" contradicts his previous explanations. Trump had insisted, documentary and photographic evidence to the contrary, that he didn't know Parnas, who is under indictment for illegally funneling foreign money to American political campaigns. 

Asked in a Fox News interview today to explain himself in light of the recording, Trump at first repeated his insistence that he didn't know Parnas—which wouldn't explain why the two were having dinner together, or why Trump was discussing such sensitive matters in front of a stranger. 

Pressed on the point, Trump hesitated. He started to say, "Well, I wouldn't have been saying that"—although the recording would be proof that he did. He stumbled briefly, then suggested he had perhaps been talking to Giuliani instead. 

Though the interviewer directly raised the point, Trump refused to explain why Giuliani, Parnas, or any other private citizens would be involved in internal State Department business. The real reason, made clear by the impeachment investigation, is that Trump's private operatives were trying to work around career State Department officials who were horrified at seeing Trump attempt to force Ukraine's government into corrupt actions.

Why should I care about this?

  • Because it is evidence from Trump's own mouth confirming the worst version of the events for which he has been impeached.
Read the whole story
JimB
10 hours ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Instagram rejected model's rosacea images

1 Share
The social media platform told Lex Gillies it doesn't allow "undesirable" body states.
Read the whole story
JimB
11 hours ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Star Trek: Picard frontloads fanservice so it can get on with going boldly

1 Share
The character Picard's first impulse is to be comforting and safe. The show <em>Picard's</em> first impulse is to slowly tear down the sense of comfort and safety the audience starts with.

Enlarge / The character Picard's first impulse is to be comforting and safe. The show Picard's first impulse is to slowly tear down the sense of comfort and safety the audience starts with. (credit: CBS)

The first Romulan you meet in Star Trek: Picard speaks with a soft Gaelic accent and wears a comfortable, practical cardigan. She is the very model of a classic cozy housekeeper, an archetype made instantly recognizable by her bearing and manner, and yet in the same breath she's utterly foreign and unexpected.

This marriage of familiar with unfamiliar—this attempt to take what you know but then tilt it to one side and jiggle it around a bit to throw you off-balance—is as good a metaphor as any for what Picard seems to be doing. This is not the comfortable, well-worn world of Star Trek I was born and raised in and am now sharing with my own child. This is something different, and based on the first episode at least, I badly want to follow this path and see where it leads.

(Mild spoilers for the first episode of Picard, "Remembrance," follow below.)

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
JimB
11 hours ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Deadly pesticides in EU produce from Turkey

1 Share
Ever more pesticides, many illegal, are being used in Turkey, according to a new Greenpeace study. Yet the tainted produce keeps ending up on European dinner tables, setting off alarm bells about serious health risks.
Read the whole story
JimB
13 hours ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

Iran raid left '34 US troops with traumatic brain injuries'

1 Comment
The Pentagon announcement comes after President Trump dismissed the injuries as "headaches".
Read the whole story
JimB
15 hours ago
reply
He really hasn't got a clue
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories