President Donald Trump received backlash over his comments at the second U.S.-North Korea summit in which he seemed to sidestep blaming North Korea leader Kim Jong Un for the death of American student Otto Warmbier. Now, the president is insisting he was “misinterpreted.”
Warmbier was captured and detained in late 2015 while in North Korea after North Korean officials accused him of trying to steal a political banner from a hotel. Warmbier returned to American soil in a coma after being detained for 17 months. He died in his hometown of Cincinnati less than a week later.
At the summit in Vietnam on Thursday, a reporter asked Trump if he has confronted Kim about Warmbier’s death.
“I really don’t think it was in his interest at all,” the president said about Kim. “[…] It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.
“He felt badly about it,” Trump added. “[…] 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.”
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
The president is now addressing his comments about taking Kim “at his word” on Warmbier’s death following the American students’ parents speaking out, as IJR Blue reported.
“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,” Frank and Cindy Warmbier wrote in a statement. “No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
On Friday, the president addressed the discussion surrounding the death of the American student, saying he was “misinterpreted” and reiterating he helped bring Warmbier home.
“Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain,” he added. “Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!”
….for Otto’s mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2019
Trump taking Kim’s “word” even caused Republicans to distance themselves from his original statement during the press conference, as IJR Red reported.
“Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley wrote in response on Thursday. “Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto.”