Pentagon spokesperson gets emotional discussing Putin’s ‘depravity’

During the Defense Department briefing on Friday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby got emotional when speaking about the images of atrocities from Ukraine. Kirby, who was responding to a question about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is a rational actor, said “I can’t talk to his psychology, but I think we can all speak to his depravity.”

Video transcript

- Putting aside whether you agree with his logic, do you believe that Putin is a rational actor?

JOHN KIRBY: I'm not a psychologist, barely got a history degree from the University of South Florida. I'm not going to go into the psychology of Vladimir Putin. It's hard to look at what he's doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that. It's difficult to look at the-- sorry.

It's difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking, serious, mature leader would do that. So I can't talk to a psychology. But I think we can all speak to his depravity. Barbara.

- I want to follow up on that exactly. You've just used a series of words that I don't think we have heard you specifically use before-- depravity, ridiculous, bizarre, belligerent. You may not be a psychiatrist, but what are you telling the world right now today by standing up here and saying these things?

What is the sense in this government of Putin? You have just-- and you've been in the military a long time. You've seen a lot. Don't usually publicly react to these very difficult images. You've used extraordinary words here today, starting with depravity. What does this government think Vladimir Putin's mental state is, physical state, psychological state? What are-- something's leading you today to use these series of words.

JOHN KIRBY: I can't speak for the entire US government. I speak for the Defense Department. And I didn't mean to get emotional. I apologize for that. I don't want to make this about me. But I've been around the military a long, long time. And I've known friends who didn't make it back.

It's just hard. It's hard for all of you, particularly you. You all have people there who are seeing this and bringing these images back. It's just difficult to look at that. And it's hard to-- it's hard to square his-- let's just call it what it is, his BS that this is about Nazism in Ukraine, and it's about protecting Russians in Ukraine, and it's about defending Russian national interests when none of them-- none of them were threatened by Ukraine.

It's hard to square that rhetoric by what he's actually doing inside Ukraine to innocent people-- shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, women-- you know, pregnant women being killed. Hospitals being bombed. I mean, it's just unconscionable. And I don't know. I don't have the-- I don't have the mental capacity to understand how you get-- how you connect those two things.

It's just beyond me. But I'm just a spokesman, Barb. I'm not qualified to make an assessment, one way or the other. And I do apologize for injecting my personal perspective here.

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