The family of an American college student who died in 2017 after being detained for 17 months in North Korea contradicted President Donald Trump on Friday after the president said he believed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was unaware of the alleged mistreatment of the student.
Otto Warmbier, 22, was imprisoned during a trip to North Korea after he allegedly stole a propaganda poster, The Associated Press reported. Doctors in Ohio determined he had severe brain damage in June 2017, after he was medically evacuated from North Korea to the U.S, according to WHIO-TV. He died just days later.
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier said Friday in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Statement out from the family of Otto Warmbier - a clear rebuke of President Trump's comments in Hanoi. https://t.co/8aXKW1lVSN— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 1, 2019
Trump told reporters Thursday in Hanoi that Kim said “he felt badly” about Otto Warmbier’s death and that he was unaware of the 22-year-old’s deteriorating health during Warmbier’s time in prison.
“He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word,” Trump said.
President Trump says he doesn't believe North Korea's top leadership knew about what happened to Otto Warmbier: "Those prisons are rough, and bad things happen, but I really don’t believe [Kim Jong Un] knew about it.” https://t.co/5E2dEfRyEa pic.twitter.com/NeN6XUMFlD— CNN (@CNN) February 28, 2019
The president’s comments drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
“There is something wrong with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, Kim Jong Un – in my view, thugs – that the president chooses to believe,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told reporters Thursday.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, questioned Kim’s ignorance of the situation while speaking Thursday on the House floor.
"Who did the North Korean government tell about the fact that he had this brain damage? No one. Unbelievable," Portman said, according to WHIO-TV. "We can't be naive about what they did to Otto, about the brutal nature of the regime that would do this to an American citizen."
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