Photo by Russian Federation President's Office

During a visit to Kazakhstan, one of the many nations Donald Trump can't find on a map or even pronounce, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained to that plucky little former Soviet republic that a free press is probably a good thing, but that some journalists need to be punished for asking questions they shouldn't. Fine, not in those words, but he was pretty clear.

In an interview with by Kazakh journamalist Aigerim Toleukhan, Pompeo was asked what the USA plans to do to help improve human rights in Kazakhstan (its only post-Soviet president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, only left office last year and is still a powerful player in the government). Pompeo answered the US would "provide technical assistance," and added,

As a journalist, I'm sure you know the good work the State Department does to train journalists in press freedoms – all of those things that build out civil society inside of countries are things we're deeply committed to. We're here, we're here to help, and we'll continue to do that.

Commitments to press freedoms like banning an NPR reporter from the pool for the very trip Pompeo's on, because another NPR reporter asked Pompeo a tough but polite question about Pompeo's involvement in Trump's Ukrainian election fuckery, which prompted him to lose his shit and cuss her out for being uppity.


Turns out the Kazakh press has heard about that! Toleukhan noted that journalists for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty have been threatened and physically attacked while working in the former USSR, and asked, in light of Pompeo's own screamy fit at NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelley and banishment of another, "Did you retaliate against NPR? What kind of message does it send to countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus, whose governments routinely suppress press freedom?"

Pompeo was ready for that, because he may not give a rip about press freedom, but he knows how to deny stuff and then blame people!

Yeah, I didn't have a confrontational interview with an NPR reporter any more than I have confrontational interviews all the time. In America that's the greatness of our nation: Reporters like yourself get to ask me any question and all questions. We take hundreds and hundreds of questions. We talk openly. We express our view; they ask their questions. That's how we proceed in America.

It's true! American leaders take hundreds and hundreds of questions, although perhaps slightly fewer since daily White House Press briefings ended nearly 11 months ago. (No, the no-questions-allowed statement after the assassination of the Iranian general doesn't count.) As for NPR's Michele Kelemen being kicked off the plane for this trip, Pompeo explained that was just a matter of journalistic ethics, which are enforced by those in power.

And with respect to who travels with me, 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. 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 who are participating alongside of them.

Remember, Pompeo's the schmuck who lied about Kelly, and there are receipts. But to be fair to other journalists, you need to punish the people who piss you off, lest anyone get any ideas.

And yet the Kazakh reporter lady -- who after 30 years of sorting through an autocrat's lies seems pretty good at recognizing fibs -- persisted: But "what kind of message will it send" when you do petty revenge like that? Pompeo was totally ready for that one, too!

It sends a message – it's a perfect message. It's a perfect message about press freedoms. They're free to ask questions. There were – there's a reporter from that very business who was at a press conference just yesterday. 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.

We didn't shut down NPR all together, and somewhere, an NPR reporter was even allowed into a presser (we haven't figured out who Pompeo was referring to), so the message is perfect. Afterward, Toleukhan took to the Twitters to say she found the Pompeo interview "exhausting."

So when Pompeo says he hopes the rest of the world will follow the US's lead on press freedom, he means exactly what he says. And his pals in the former Soviet sphere are no doubt pleased at how well he's learned!

[Politico / US Department of State / US Agency for Global Media]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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