The NPR/Mike Pompeo feud shows how media bashing divides voters
As the presidential race heats up, along with President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, so does the media bashing -- and, like the rest of American politics these days, polls show the public to be more divided than ever regarding whom to bash.
A leading example is the goofy feud between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NPR that most recently involved the removal of an NPR reporter from the journalists pool traveling with the secretary to Europe and Central Asia.
The secretary of state's feud with NPR began last Friday when Mary Louise Kelly, a highly respected host on the radio network, said Pompeo had castigated her in a foul-mouthed tirade after an on-air interview in which she had questioned him about Ukraine.
In particular, he seemed to be triggered by the question of whether he, as the head of our diplomatic corps, should apologize to Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was ousted from her job after being the target of an apparent smear campaign.
After the recorded interview, Kelly was led to Pompeo's private living room, where in a tense discussion that included his shouting and cursing, he asked rhetorically, "You think Americans care about Ukraine?" He also challenged her to find Ukraine on a map, which the veteran reporter of foreign policy and national security easily did.
This matter erupted into more than the usual dust-up from the administration of a president who repeatedly has described media as "the enemy of the people." In the wake of the flap with Kelly, Pompeo's State Department raised things to a new appalling level when Michele Kelemen, an NPR diplomatic correspondent, was barred from traveling with Pompeo during his trip, which includes a visit to Ukraine.
Most journalists encounter derision or even threats of various kinds. But you don't have to be of a particular party to be at least offended, if not as outraged as I am, over a petty vendetta that gets in the way of important news coverage.
Even Steve Hilton, a conservative commentator at conservative Fox News, said something that I can agree with for a change: "For goodness sake, Mr. Secretary, don't be such a baby," said the onetime director of strategy for former British Prime Minister David Cameron. "You should be able to handle tough questions by now, and don't be such a bully. Foul-mouth ranting at a reporter doing her job is an embarrassment to you and the administration."
But considering the smash-mouth style of our current president, I expect more abusive talk to come. As much as conservatives accuse liberals of "virtue signaling," a pejorative for the conspicuous expression of moral values whether they act accordingly or not, conservatives have their own version of it too.