Family of beheaded journalist: Obama officials ‘bullied’ us

A spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist killed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said Wednesday that the family had been "hectored and bullied" by the Obama administration.

"We had meetings with the administration," Barak Barfi, the spokesman, told "CBS This Morning." "The family sat with the National Security Council officials. And basically, he bullied and hectored them, and they were scared."

ADVERTISEMENT
Sotloff, who went missing in Syria a year ago, was killed in a video released by ISIS earlier this month. He was the second American journalist beheaded by the group.

The family has criticized the administration through their spokesman, suggesting that officials did not cooperate to secure Sotloff’s release.

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis McDonoughRyan secures big win with bipartisan Puerto Rico deal Trump, GOP agree: ObamaCare helps us Clinton’s top five vice presidential picks MORE responded to reports that before Sotloff, and another journalist, James Foley, were killed, their families were threatened with prosecution if they paid ransoms to ISIS.

"In terms of what was communicated to the families in the midst of many, many meetings, over the course of this very difficult circumstance, we obviously made clear what the law is," McDonough said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Now, we didn't threaten anybody, but we made clear what the law is,” he added. “That's our responsibility to make sure that we explain the law and uphold the law."

Barfi disputed McDonough’s account on Wednesday.

"I’m hearing that Denis McDonough is saying they weren’t threatened — he wasn’t in the meeting," Barfi said in the Wednesday interview. "[Secretary of State] John KerryJohn KerryAn all-female ticket? Not in 2016 GOP senator calls for China to crack down on illegal opioid Obamas to live in home of former Clinton press secretary: report MORE wasn’t in the meetings. The family was in the meetings, and then I was in a subsequent meeting, and I know what I heard."

Barfi also said he and the family had little access to senior administration officials.

"We never really believed that the administration was doing anything to help us," he said. "We had very, very limited contact with senior officials.

It was basically limited to two FBI agents, and when I tried to ask for a senior point of contact, all the administration said is, you can speak with to the consulate of bureau affairs at the State Department," he continued.

"We wanted them to coordinate the information, we wanted a 24-hour crisis center where we could call, and they could respond to us immediately, just like the Europeans have," he added. 

The U.S. did conduct a rescue attempt, but Sotloff and Foley had been moved before special forces could reach the site.

"We had two phone calls with a senior White House official," Barfi said. "One to inform us of the raid and another to make a request, which was rebuffed." Barfi did not detail that request.

More in 12:30 Report

The Hill's 12:30 Report

Read more »