February 13, 2020
It's not just that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chewed out NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly after she dared to ask him questions he didn't like. Nor is it so objectionable that his tirade was saturated with F-bombs. And it certainly is not because she's a woman. When it comes to reporters, Pompeo is not just a misogynist but a mistersogynist. He's an equal opportunity jerk, as evidenced by his decision to block NPR from his plane for his trip to Kyiv. No wonder President Trump likes him so much.
He's not your stereotypical diplomat, but he will have to explain in Kyiv his shouted question during his conniption fit: "Do you think Americans (blankin') care about Ukraine?"
First of all, Americans do care about Ukraine. The fact is, Trump has come all-too-close to being ex-President Trump. He already has been impeached over the incriminating way he handled the country's new leader. Granted, it was preordained in the Senate that defendant Trump would beat the rap in the Senate, but at least he had to break a sweat. And at least his lawyers had to expose themselves as duplicitous.
His fellow Republicans are terrified of him and desperately seek his approval. And they control most of the government.
So it probably meant a lot that Trump singled out Pompeo's boorishness toward the NPR reporter by stating, "I think you did a good job on her actually."
None of this abuse of my fellow wretches of media by Pompeo is surprising. Trump and his goons have made a habit of it. It's really just thuggish intimidation. What is most galling of all is the wimpy way that us wretches respond.
In this case, reporter groups put out statements whining that an "apparent attempt to take punitive action against a news outlet for its reporting is outrageous and contrary to American values." That is how the White House Correspondents' Association put it. The State Department Correspondents' Association complained about "punitive actions."
Oh, CNN did take the administration to court when its reporter got his press credentials pulled after a combative exchange with Trump. When the judge ruled against the POTUS people, they backed down. So the Trumpsters retreated to a policy that says, in effect, that they will establish rules of decorum for news types, knowing full well that "decorum" and "news types" are classic oxymorons.
There is way more that reporters can do to fight back. For starters, they can simply abandon the White House. All you get is lying manipulation, so why not just work the phones and be the adversaries that journalists are supposed to be, while ignoring the invective from this president? The same is also true of the State Department, where correspondents cluster and scurry around for crumbs of information from deceptive press officers ordered to put out self-serving pablum.
As far as access to the secretary's plane, either boycott the plane and spend the money on commercial flights, or, if you must travel with him, refuse to participate in any discussions where the person doing the briefing is not fully identified. You can always get all the information you need the old-fashioned way: leaks.
For Pompeo and the rest of the Trump administration bullies, there is only one effective response. Bully back. In other words, don't play the Washington game. It's lazy.
(Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.)
(c) 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.