Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of American student Otto Warmbier, gave an interview to Fox and Friends on Tuesday in which they called the North Korean government “terrorists” for abducting, torturing, and ultimately murdering their son.
“It’s been three months since Otto has died and we buried him. Our family has had time to come together and process this horrible situation, do some healing. But now we see North Korea claiming to be a victim and the world is picking on them, and we’re here to tell you North Korea is not a victim. They’re terrorists. They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him. They are not victims. They’re terrorists,” said Fred Warmbier in the interview.
“It was astounding to Cindy and I to discover that North Korea is not listed as a state sponsor of terror. We owe it to the world to list it to North Korea as a state sponsor of terror,” he said.
Fox News notes that the president commented on the Warmbier interview via Twitter. Perhaps Otto Warmbier’s murder has been one of the factors shaping Trump’s confrontational approach to North Korea:
Great interview on @foxandfriends with the parents of Otto Warmbier: 1994 – 2017. Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
In the interview, Fred and Cindy Warmbier told a horrifying story of boarding the plane that brought Otto back from North Korea in June, only to hear what Fred described as “this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound.”
They found their son convulsing on his stretcher and issuing those hideous cries, which were awful enough to drive Cindy and the Warmbiers’ daughter Greta off the plane. According to Cindy’s account, she heard Greta screaming while she nearly passed out.
“They destroyed him,” Cindy said of the way North Korea treated her son.
“We thought he was in a coma, but you couldn’t call it a coma,” she said. “When I talked to Senator Portman that morning, he said Otto was on a plane coming home, and I asked him: is there brain damage? And he said there is severe brain damage. What we pictured, because we’re optimists, is that Otto would be asleep, and maybe be in a medically induced coma, and then when our doctors here would work with him and he’d get the best care and love, that he would come out of it.”
“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently. He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth,” said Fred Warmbier.
“Within two days of Otto being home, his fever spiked to 104 degrees. He had a large scar on his right foot,” he said.
“North Korea is not a victim. They’re terrorists,” Fred Warmbier repeated. “They purposely and intentionally injured Otto.”
“We weren’t prepared for what we had,” said Cindy Warmbier. “And then when we saw Otto the way he was—we loved him, we’re proud of him, but no mother, no parent, should ever have gone through what we went through. And the fact that Otto was alone all that time, with no one to comfort him, is inexcusable. Whatever happened—I mean, why would you do this?”
“I rode in the ambulance with him, because I did not want him to be alone anymore,” she said. “He’d been alone for way too long. We stayed with him and loved him as best as we could.”
Asked why she thought North Korea sent her son home, Cindy answered simply, “He was going to die.”
“Why would you question what a terrorist country does?” Fred interjected. “They’re terrorists. This is what they do. They kidnapped Otto. They tortured him.”
When Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt noted that the purported reason for Otto’s arrest and sentence of 15 years’ hard labor was merely the alleged theft of a propaganda poster, Fred objected, “They don’t need a reason.”
A State Department official addressed the Warmbiers’ call for North Korea to be designated a terrorist state with the Washington Post on Wednesday.
“As a matter of law, in order for any country to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. These designations are made after careful review of all available evidence to determine if a country meets the statutory criteria for designation,” said the official.
“The Department of State will take immediate action if credible evidence supports North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism under the statutory criteria,” the State Department official added.
The Post adds that doctors remain uncertain as to the exact cause of Warmbier’s death, noting that he clearly suffered a loss of brain tissue, but displayed no obvious signs of physical trauma. His medical history revealed no previous condition that might explain his death.