The parents of student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea and died after being returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state in 2017, have spoken out after President Donald Trump’s comments about their son earlier this week.
“Kim [Jong Un] and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Ending his Hanoi, Vietnam, summit with Kim on Thursday after no denuclearization deal was reached, Trump made a stunning decision to back the ruler’s claim that he was unaware of what happened to Warmbier before he returned home in a vegetative state with severe head trauma. Instead of standing up to the regime’s treatment of the student, Trump suggested his death was the result of prison conditions and said he believed Kim’s story.
“Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places and bad things happened. But I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump said. “He tells me he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
Trump’s remarks have triggered a wave of bipartisan backlash, prompting comparisons to his acceptance of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial of election meddling and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s claims of innocence in the brutal killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. intelligence community believes Putin and MBS to be responsible in those respective crimes, but Trump has made it clear that he rejects the findings of his own administration in favor of the word of authoritarian rulers.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.