The Kremlin has demanded an apology from Fox News host Bill O’Reilly for calling President Vladimir Putin “a killer.”
Presidential Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the outburst “unacceptable and offensive.”
O’Reilly made the claim during an interview with U.S. President Donald Trump.
In the interview, Trump said that he respected Putin and hoped to work alongside him to defeat Islamic State.
“I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not, and if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS – which is a major fight – and the Islamic terrorism all over the world, that’s a good thing,” Trump said. “Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
challenged Trump's characterization, calling Putin a killer.
The president appeared unperturbed by the remarks, replying, "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think, our country's so innocent?"
The president's comments have provoked a backlash among Republican officials.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell labeled Putin “a thug.” "The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections,” he told U.S. News network CNN. "No, I don't think there's any equivalency between the way Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does."
Republican Senator Marco Rubio also hit back.
"When has a democratic political [activist] been poisoned by the GOP, or vice versa?" he said in an apparent reference to former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. British officials have accused Russian security services of poisoning Litvinenko with polonium.
"We are not the same as Putin," Rubio wrote.
The president gave a similar response in 2015, when MSNBC host Joe Scarborough alleged that Putin killed "journalists that don’t agree with him.”
“Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe,” Trump replied.