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Rick Scott should work to free real American hostages

Rick Scott should work to free real American hostages
© Greg Nash

Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida shared a video last week comparing his experience of sitting through President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE's impeachment trial to being "held hostage."

It is appalling that a member of Congress, or anyone within the U.S. government, would find it appropriate to compare their day jobs to the horrors of being an actual hostage.

As an advocate for all American hostages and their families, I find Sen. Scott’s video deeply disturbing and incredibly insensitive. My son James Foley and Florida native Steven Sotloff were tortured and brutally executed because they were American journalists. They knew the true horrors of being held hostage. This is why the Foley family started The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to advocate for the freedom of all Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.

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Making it worse, if that’s possible, is the fact that Robert Levinson, America’s longest held hostage, is one of Sen. Scott’s constituents.

Bob Levinson was kidnapped in Iran in March 2007 and has been denied basic human rights and any contact with his family for nearly 13 years. The Levinson family home is in Coral Springs, Florida, and members of the family, including Bob’s wife, have met and spoken personally with Sen. Scott in the past. Only God knows how much Bob has suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually during these years away from his family and country.

This is not the first time when the metaphor of being held hostage has been used by elected officials — and others — on both sides of the aisle to portray themselves in a difficult situation. But Sen. Scott should know better.

Sen. Scott knows about Bob Levinson. He knows that several years ago the family received a real hostage video from Bob’s kidnappers in which he pleads for his life. Comparing any aspect of the work of a U.S. senator to the terror and unimaginable conditions that Bob and other hostages suffer is inexcusable.

Sen. Scott may not have intended to disrespect Robert Levinson or his family, or the many other hostages and their families, with his ill-advised video — but disrespect he did. My hope is that he and other elected officials will refrain from using this hurtful rhetoric in the future.

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Courageous American citizens like Robert Levinson, the Namazi family and Michael White are suffering through captivity in Iran, Majd Kamalmaz and several others in Syria, Tomeu Vadell and five colleagues in Venezuela, Reem Desousky and at least five others in Egypt and far too many more. They are the ones being held hostage, often tortured and starved while their families fight tooth and nail for their release.

I humbly call on all members of our government to be the statesmen and women our country desperately needs at this critical time and to leave no stone unturned in seeking the release of every American held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.

And I further request that Sen. Scott use his office to help bring American hostages home, starting with Bob. 

To that end, he can cosponsor the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, now pending in Congress that would sanction individuals in Iran who are responsible for Bob’s kidnapping. It would also codify and streamline our government’s approach to how we handle American hostage situations and wrongful detentions. Five senators currently are sponsors of the legislation (S 712), including Republican Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE, Florida’s other senator, who aided in drafting the bill.

Sen. Scott is notably absent from that sponsor list, but he can do the right thing by putting his name to it — and by encouraging his colleagues in the Senate to do the same.

If he steps up now, Sen. Scott can put this terrible video behind him and work to send help where it is needed the most — to Bob Levinson and the other hostages who are truly suffering every day and need to be brought home.

Diane Foley is the mother of American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped and murdered by ISIS in Syria. She serves as president and founder of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.