go to content
World

The State Department's Spokesperson Totally Went Off On "Russia Today"

"I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets," John Kirby said in a heated exchange on Wednesday.

Posted on

State Department spokesperson John Kirby got into a tense back-and-forth with a reporter from Russia Today on Wednesday over Russian bombing of hospitals in Syria.

Kirby was answering another reporter's question about where Russia is bombing in Syria during its new assault on Aleppo, when he was interrupted.

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

"I would say, though, that we have seen additional airstrikes now in Syria by Russia and by the regime, to include what has been reported to be — and we have no reason to doubt this because of the sourcing that we’re getting — that five hospitals and at least one mobile clinic in Syria were struck by—," he said, when he was cut off.

"Which city were the hospitals in?" a correspondent from Russia Today said, before asking Kirby to provide details about just how the United States knows where Moscow's jets have been striking.

It only got more intense from there after the correspondent cited the Russian defense ministry as saying that it was rebels blockading Aleppo and again asked how the US gets its information in Syria:

C-SPAN

Here's the transcript of that exchange from the State Department's website:

MR KIRBY: You can go look at the information that many of the Syrian relief agencies are putting out there publicly. We’re getting our information from them too. These reports —

QUESTION: But you are citing those reports without giving any specifics.

MR KIRBY: Because we believe these agencies are credible and because we have other sources of information that back up what we’re seeing from some of these reports. And you know what? Why don’t ask —

QUESTION: If you — exactly.

MR KIRBY: Here’s a good question.

QUESTION: That’s what I —

MR KIRBY: Why don’t you ask your defense ministry —

QUESTION: That’s what I was —

MR KIRBY: — what they’re doing and see if you can get —

QUESTION: If you give a specific list —

MR KIRBY: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

QUESTION: If you give a specific list of hospitals —

MR KIRBY: No, no, no.

QUESTION: My colleagues who are listening —

MR KIRBY: I’m supposed to —

QUESTION: — hopefully would be able to go and ask Russian officials about a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of —

MR KIRBY: You work for Russia Today, right? Isn’t that your agency?

QUESTION: That is correct. Yes.

MR KIRBY: And so why shouldn’t you ask your government the same kinds of questions that you’re standing here asking me?

QUESTION: When you level —

MR KIRBY: Ask them about their military activities. Get them to tell you what they’re — or to deny what they’re doing.

QUESTION: When I ask for specifics, it seems your response is why are you here? Well, you are leveling that accusation.

MR KIRBY: No, ma’am.

QUESTION: And if you give specifics —

MR KIRBY: No, ma’am.

QUESTION: — my colleagues would be able to ask —

MR KIRBY: No, ma’am.

QUESTION: — Russian officials.

MR KIRBY: Once again, you’re just wrong. I’m not leveling those accusations. Relief agencies that we find credible are leveling those accusations.

QUESTION: But you repeat them.

MR KIRBY: So why don’t you question them about their information and where they’re getting it? And why don’t you question your own defense ministry?

QUESTION: Which organizations then? Which ones? Where should I look?

MR KIRBY: We’ll get you — we will get you a list of them after the briefing. I don’t have it right here in front of me, but I’m happy to provide to you some of the relief agencies that are telling us what they’re seeing on the ground.

QUESTION: And specifically on blocking aid within the 28 days that Russia and Syria had stopped the airstrikes in eastern Aleppo, and I understand they resumed by the – they were resumed by the Syrian military yesterday. Do you — can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

MR KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

QUESTION: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government.

MR KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

Ma’am.

QUESTION: I just have —

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee then attempted to step in to mediate between the two, but Kirby was having none of it.

QUESTION: John, can I just —

QUESTION: Yeah. Well —

QUESTION: Let me — hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of are, so it’s — she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not —

MR KIRBY: From a state-owned — from a state-owned —

QUESTION: But they’re not —

MR KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

QUESTION: But they’re not —

MR KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

QUESTION: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

QUESTION: The outlet is (inaudible) —

MR KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean —

MR KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MR KIRBY: Okay? But I’m not —

QUESTION: But I mean — oh no, I understand. But asking —

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

QUESTION: Well —

QUESTION: Do you have an issue with my question?

QUESTION: Well, hold on, but just —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Look, there — well, we’ll talk about — we can talk about this later offline —

QUESTION: Maybe I could ask my Iraq question.

QUESTION: — but just — the question is not an inappropriate question to ask.

MR KIRBY: Didn’t say that it was.

QUESTION: All right.

MR KIRBY: But I also think it should be asked of their own defense ministry —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: — which they don’t do, which Russia Today doesn’t do.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.