WASHINGTON — The parents of slain American hostage Otto Warmbier spoke out against President Trump’s assertion that Kim Jong-un didn’t know about and feels bad about the torture and imprisonment of their son.
Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who visited the communist regime as part of a tour group, was seized by North Korean officials on Jan. 2, 2016, before his flight was supposed to take off from Pyongyang. He was paraded before cameras the next month for a tearful “confession,” admitting he took down a propaganda banner that was hanging in the hall of his hotel.
When he was returned home to Ohio on June 13, 2017, Otto was in a coma. He died six days later. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were Trump’s guests at the 2018 State of the Union address.
The Warmbier family won a $501 million wrongful death judgment against the Kim regime in December. Court documents said the family climbed the steps of the plane upon Otto’s return and immediately heard “loud inhuman sounds,” and his condition was “horrible and unrecognizable” as Otto was “jerking violently” and “howling.”
“He wore a diaper and had a ‘feeding tube’ and a ‘shaved head,’ ‘his arms . . . curled and mangled,’ ‘his eyes . . .bulging out,’ and it ‘almost appeared that he had chewed a hole through his bottom lip.’ His once ‘perfectly straight’ teeth were misaligned,'” the court document continued, adding that his sister Greta “ran off the plane screaming.” Otto Warmbier also had a large scar on his left foot that wasn’t there before, attributed to electric shock torture. A neurologist concluded that Otto’s brain damage most likely resulted from the loss of blood flow to the brain for five to 20 minutes.
At his Thursday press conference in Hanoi following the end of his brief summit with Kim, Trump was asked if he had confronted the dictator about Warmbier’s death and asked him to take responsibility.
“Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places and bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he was — I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump replied.
“He felt badly about it… he knew the case very well but he knew it later,” the president continued. “You got a lot of people, big country, and in those prisons and those camps you’ve got a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things. But he tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
In a statement today, Fred and Cindy Warmbier said that they have been “respectful during this summit process,” but “now we must speak out.”
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” they said. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Asked Thursday about Trump’s comment, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) replied, “I do not see the leader of North Korea as somebody who is a friend.”
“We know what happened to Otto, we know what this country has done,” he added. “I support the president in his effort to denuclearize them but I do not have a misbelief that this — of who this leader is.”