The news of the beheading video of Steve Sotloff broke as White House press secretary Josh Earnest was delivering the daily briefing.
“I’ve not seen those reports today. I think that may have just happened in the last few minutes while I’ve been standing up here,” Earnest told reporters. “This is something that the — that the administration has obviously been watching very carefully, since this threat against Mr. Sotloff’s life was originally made a few weeks ago.”
Miami native Sotloff, 31, had written for TIME magazine, Foreign Policy, the Christian Science Monitor, The Diplomat and more when he disappeared Aug. 4, 2013, near the Turkish border.
After photojournalist James Foley was beheaded on camera in a video released by ISIS on Aug. 19, his executioner reappeared on camera holding Sotloff by the back of his orange shirt.
A few days ago, ISIS backers tweeted that a video showing Sotloff’s death would be coming soon.
“Our thoughts and prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff’s family and those who worked with him,” Earnest said.
“The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to trying and rescue Mr. Sotloff. We’ve — I’m not in a position to confirm the authenticity of that video or the reports at this point, obviously, since I just walked out here,” he added.
“But this is — if there is a video that has been released, it is something that will be analyzed very carefully by the U.S. government and our intelligence officials to determine its authenticity.”
The video features what appears to be the same executioner who killed Foley, with a London accent.
“I’m back, Obama,” the killer taunts. “And I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy toward the Islamic State, because of your insistence on continuing your bombings.”
“So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people. We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.”
At the State Department briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We’ve seen reports of a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff by ISIL. The intelligence community will work as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity.”
“If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen,” Psaki added. “Our hearts go out to the Sotloff family and we will provide more information as it becomes available.”
When asked what the government’s last information was on Sotloff, she replied, “I just don’t have any other additional information to provide. Certainly understand the interest.”
Last week, Sotloff’s mom appealed directly to self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video carried by Al-Arabiya.
“My son Steven is in your hands,” Shirley Sotloff said. ”Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hand of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother, and grandson. He’s an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak. We have not seen Steven for over a year and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him.”
“Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He’s an innocent journalist,” she said.
“I’ve always learned that you, the Caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you to please release my child.”