White House responds to criticism from slain hostage’s family

Kayla Mueller, ISIS
Family photo

The Obama administration on Friday defended itself after criticism from the family of an American who was killed while being held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

{mosads}In an interview with ABC on Friday morning, Carl and Marsha Mueller — whose daughter Kayla Mueller was taken hostage in August 2013 — said President Obama never followed through on a promise to make a donation to a foundation set up in their daughter’s name, called Kayla’s Hands.

“I’m still waiting for that donation, Mr. President,” Carl Mueller said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday declined to address what Obama had told the grieving parents, but he left open the possibility that the president would make a donation in the future.

“I’m not going to speak to any private conversations the president has had with the Mueller family,” Earnest said. “What I will say is that the president is aware of the foundation, Kayla’s Hands, that’s been formed to honor her memory, to honor her life’s work. It certainly is consistent with the kind of charitable organization that the president and the first lady have supported in the past.”

Earnest added that he “anticipated” Obama would support the organization but could not offer details.

A White House official told ABC that the president planned to make a donation.

Carl Mueller said earlier Friday that the president had made the promise to him on March 13, 2015, just weeks after his daughter’s death was confirmed.

“He says, ‘You won’t know, it’ll be an anonymous donation, but I will,’ ” he said.

But the Muellers say the donation never arrived.

Kayla Mueller, an aid worker, was captured while traveling in Aleppo, Syria, with her boyfriend, who was working at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the city.

Mueller’s cause of death is disputed, with ISIS claiming that she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike.

The parents also accused the administration of threatening to prosecute them if they attempted to pay the $6.2 million ransom that ISIS was demanding in exchange for Mueller’s release.

“The president could have been a hero, but he chose not to,” Carl Mueller said.

Earnest defended the government’s longstanding policy not to pay ransoms for American hostages, though he said the administration has never prosecuted anyone for trying to free a family member.

“I think the pain and grief that continues to be experienced to this day by Kayla’s parents is entirely understandable,” Earnest added.

Tags Barack Obama Carl Mueller Josh Earnest Kayla Mueller Kayla Mueller
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