US spokesperson loses temper with Russia Today journalist over Syria bombings: 'Go ask your own government'

Heated exchange during daily State Department briefing led another reporter to intervene 

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A US government spokesperson appears to have lost his temper while being questioned about the situation in Syria by a reporter from state-owned outlet Russia Today.

Correspondent Gayane Chichakyan asked spokesperson John Kirby to give details on the bombing of “five hospitals and at least one mobile clinic” in Syria which he cited reliable aid organisations had reported as targeted during renewed bombing of rebel areas by the Syrian government and its Russian allies this week.

The bombings have been confirmed by several agencies and monitors as having taken place. 

Mr Kirby, who said he did not have the specifics in front of him, told the reporter after repeated requests for specific names and locations of the hospitals to direct her questions to the aid organisations themselves, or the Russian Defence Ministry itself.

“You work for Russia Today, right? Isn’t that your agency?” he asked Ms Chichakyan. 

“And so why shouldn’t you ask your government the same kinds of questions that you’re standing here asking me?... Why don’t you question them about their information and where they’re getting it? And why don’t you question your own defence ministry?” he said.

Ms Chichakyan repeated that she would need specifics to put any allegations to other sources when the Associated Press’s Matt Lee intervened. 

“Please be careful about saying 'your defence ministry and things like that. She's a journalist, she's just like the rest of us are,” he said to Mr Kirby.

“From a state-owned outlet,” Mr Kirby replied. “I'm not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.”

Russia Today later said that a representative from the US State Department had apologised to Ms Chichakyan and provided her with the details she had requested on the alleged hospital bombings which “did not lay blame on any party for the alleged strikes.”

Russia announced on Tuesday that it had begun a new aerial campaign against Isis and al-Qaeda affiliated rebel targets in Idlib and Homs provinces. 

Heavy shelling has also been reported in Aleppo province and within the besieged rebel stronghold of east Aleppo city, although the Russian government says a moratorium on air strikes on east Aleppo which began on October 18 is still in place. 

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that at least 65 people across Aleppo province had been killed in the first 48 hours of the campaign.