Yesterday morning, after the conclusion of his much-ballyhooed but quickly abortedVietnamese tryst with North Korean
madman dictator Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump made deeply controversial remarks pertaining to Otto Warmbier — the young American citizen murdered by the Stalinist North Korean regime in 2017. Warmbier, a former University of Virgnia student, was returned in a vegetative state by the North Koreans in 2017, over a year after being captured. His parents have claimed that he was brutally tortured by the hermit kingdom’s Communist minions.
“I really believe something very bad happened to him, and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it,” Trump said at a post-summit press conference. “[Kim Jong-un] felt very badly about it…He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”
President Trump on Otto Warmbier: “I really believe something very bad happened to him, and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it…(Kim Jong-Un) felt very badly about it…He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.” pic.twitter.com/EWnw7BzVNe
— Axios (@axios) February 28, 2019
It was, as Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro called it, a “pathetic moment” for the proverbial leader of the free world. Political partisans of all stripes ought to be able to agree that a regime that engages in mass Soviet Union-style gulag/concentration camp enslavement, openly kills dissidents (even if those dissidents are related to the ruling family), and has something closely approximating zero formal diplomatic relations with the free world, should not be blindly “take[n]…at [its] words.”
And that is especially true when, as here, the evidence is nigh incontrovertible that the regime truly did murder Otto Warmbier. Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh opined: “Trump’s answer about Otto Warmbier was legitimately one of the most cowardly things I’ve ever seen a president say or do. There’s no excusing it. Trump lied to provide cover for a man who tortured an American to death. That moment will live forever in shame.”
Trump’s answer about Otto Warmbier was legitimately one of the most cowardly things I’ve ever seen a president say or do. There’s no excusing it. Trump lied to provide cover for a man who tortured an American to death. That moment will live forever in shame.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) March 1, 2019
Today, the parents of Otto Warmbier — who were themselves official White House guests to the 2018 State of the Union Address — spoke out. “We have been respectful during this summit process,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said, reports Fox News. “Now we must speak out. 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.”
Many conservatives were quick to support Warmbier’s parents. For instance, conservative freshman congressman Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) tweeted, “Kim’s brutal regime is responsible for this young American’s death and no amount of ‘taking Kim at his word’ is going to change that, @realDonaldTrump.”
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) March 1, 2019
It remains to be how seen how the President himself will respond to the righteous pushback. However, various cogs of his Administration on Friday already began to try to ameliorate what seemed to many like a serious unforced error. Fox News continued:
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway clarified in an interview Friday on Fox News, however, that the president agrees with the family and holds North Korea “responsible.” She said Trump was only saying there’s no indication Kim knew what happened at the time.
“Of course he holds North Korea responsible. He has deep affection and shares the grief of the Warmbier family. That will never end,” she said.