RT has asked the US State Department for specific information concerning allegations that Russia is targeting hospitals in Syria. The response was a reiteration of those allegations and a refusal to treat RT in the same way as other media outlets.
"I'm not making those accusations, I'm telling you that we've seen reports from credible aid organizations," Kirby said, refusing to clarify any details on the alleged attacks or even give the list of the "many Syrian relief agencies" on which the State Department relied.
He went on with his criticism of the reporter.
"Here's a good question: Why don't you ask your Defense Ministry what they are doing? You work for Russia Today [RT], and so why shouldn't you ask your government the same kind of questions that you are asking me?" Kirby told RT on Wednesday. While Chichakyan pointed out she needed specific details so that RT could inquire about the allegations, Kirby refused to elaborate.
The US official’s response prompted Matt Lee, a correspondent from the AP news agency, to intervene.
"Please be careful about saying 'your Defense Ministry' and things like that – she's a journalist, she's just like the rest of us are," he pointed out.
"From a state-owned outlet!" Kirby interrupted, adding, "I'm not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets."
Larry Johnson, a retired CIA and State Department official, criticized Kirby’s behavior during the briefing, saying that his treatment of RT’s correspondent was “so unprofessional” that it “borders on incompetence.”
Johnson says that the proper way for Kirby, who “relays the assentation of an unnamed group” to handle the situation, would be to calmly explain that he was not able to name the locations at the moment.
While the accusations thrown at Russia stem from “highly suspect” sources of information, they fit the narrative of Russia’s demonization in the US media, Johnson said.
Speaking about Kirby’s attempt to justify his conduct toward RT’s correspondent by pointing out that RT is funded by the Russian state, Johnson regarded it as an odd argument, as the same is true for many major media outlets, for instance, BBC. At the same time, Johnson believes that US mainstream media is failing to do its job properly and seems to be “in the pocket of this [Obama] administration.”
“They are not even asking basic critical fundamental questions, they accepting assertions by the administration at face value, not challenging, not questioning,” he said.