The parents of Otto Warmbier are calling out President Donald Trump for believing that North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un had nothing to do with the death of their son who was held captive in the dictatorship for 17 months and died soon after he returned home.
“We have been respectful during the summit process. Now we must speak out,” Frank and Cindy Warmbier wrote in a statement obtained by MSNBC.
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Trump told reporters in Vietnam Thursday that he didn’t think Kim was involved in the suspected torture that resulted in Warmbier’s death. “I really don’t think it was in his interest at all.”
“It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen,” Trump added. “Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places and bad things happened but I really don’t believe … he knew about it.”
The president said that Kim “felt badly” about the incident. “Some really bad things happened to Otto, some really really bad things but he tells me he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
Watch the video below:
Pres. Trump says Kim Jong Un ‘felt badly’ about Otto Warmbier, but that he doesn’t believe the North Korean leader knew about the American college student’s torture.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 28, 2019
Trump has been relatively lax on his criticism of the brutal dictator. In tweets leading up to and following the summit this week, the president referred to Kim as has his friend and insisted that their relationship is “very good.”
Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2019
Great to be back from Vietnam, an amazing place. We had very substantive negotiations with Kim Jong Un – we know what they want and they know what we must have. Relationship very good, let’s see what happens!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2019
Trump’s comments on Warmbier’s death received backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, including a former member of his administration, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. “Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime,” she tweeted Thursday.
Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto. ❤️🇺🇸
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 28, 2019
Trump has not yet defended or backtracked on his comments.