State Department spokesman John Kirby called out Russia Today reporter Gayane Chichakyan on Wednesday for working for the Russian government while discussing Russia's military strikes in Syria.
RT is funded by the Russian government and often has a reporter present at the State Department's daily press briefing. Some observers have called RT a propaganda tool of the Kremlin.
Chichakyan during Wednesday's press briefing demanded a list of the hospitals Kirby had mentioned earlier that have been hit by Syrian and Russian airstrikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Kirby said that he did not have the list on him but could get one for her. He added that accusations of hospitals being targeted have come from reputable relief agencies on the ground in Syria.
Kirby then told Chichakyan that she should contact the Russian government for why its forces are targeting civilian hospitals.
"Here's a good question, why don't you ask your Defense Ministry what they're doing?" Kirby asked.
Chichakyan said that she wanted the list of hospitals so that she could ask the Russian Defense Ministry that question.
Kirby then said the Russian government would deny the accusations from the relief agencies.
A similar exchange occurred between Kirby and Chichakyan over how Russian and Syrian forces have allowed no aid into Aleppo to help starving residents for a long time, leading to a humanitarian crisis.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee appeared to take offense to Kirby's comments, saying the spokesman should not have told Chichakyan to contact "your Defense Ministry" because she is a journalist. Kirby noted that there is a difference between independent news agencies such as AP and RT, which is owned by the Russian government.
"I didn't say the questions were out of line," Kirby said. "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."
When Lee again said that some of Kirby's comments were inappropriate, Kirby said that RT does not ask the same questions of its own government.
"Didn't say that it was, but I also think it should be asked of their own Defense Ministry, which they don't do, which Russia Today doesn't do," Kirby said.
This is not the first spat between Kirby and Chichakyan. A similar one occurred in December 2015, during which Kirby became aggravated at the RT reporter.