ABC Spotlights Obama's Broken Promise to ISIS Hostage's Parents

ABC's World News Tonight on Friday led its broadcast with a preview of a special 20/20 report that detailed how the parents of ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller tried to free her before she was killed in captivity. Carl and Marsha Mueller disclosed that President Obama "made a promise to help the foundation they set up in her name, and then broke it." Mueller's parents also revealed their "belief that the government failed their daughter." [video below]

Anchor David Muir introduced correspondent Brian Ross's by highlighting how "you will hear from her parents, who say the President made them a promise — a promise, they say, that was not kept." Ross wasted little time before playing a "never-before-seen video of Mueller as a prisoner, tortured by ISIS." The journalist reported that "Kayla had been kidnapped in Syria from a Doctors Without Borders vehicle. But in a phone call to the Muellers, the organization refused to help get Kayla back, because they said she was not working for them."

Ross noted that "Kayla was killed in ISIS captivity;" and that after the Islamist group sent pictures of her dead body, "the President came to Arizona to console the Muellers. They say he made a promise to help the foundation they set up in her name, and then broke it." ABC's White House correspondent Jonathan Karl pursued Obama press secretary Josh Earnest at recent press briefing about the failed donation:

JONATHAN KARL (from White House press briefing): Can the Mueller family expect that the President — that the Obamas — will make a donation to their daughter's foundation, in the name of Kayla Mueller, soon?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The — as I mentioned, I can't speak to any previous conversations that they've had. But I can tell you that—

KARL: But is a donation coming?

EARNEST: The foundation, Kayla's Hands, that's been established in her memory is certainly the kind of foundation that the President and First Lady have supported in the past; and I would anticipate that they would make a financial contribution to continue supporting it.

Mr. Mueller decried the Obama administration's handling of his daughter's plight: "So we put all our faith in the government, and they let us down. And they let us down."

The full transcript of Brian Ross's report from ABC's World News Tonight on August 26, 2016:

DAVID MUIR: We begin here with an ABC News investigation: the daughter who was kidnapped by ISIS; and her parents who now tell ABC News that they made their own pleas to ISIS to release her. Kayla Mueller was the young American who was captured while trying to help the young victims of war — her parents e-mailing ISIS from their home — their kitchen computer in Arizona.

Tonight here, never-before-seen video of Mueller as a prisoner, tortured by ISIS — she died in captivity. And this evening, you will hear from her parents, who say the President made them a promise — a promise, they say, that was not kept. ABC's chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, leading us off.

BRIAN ROSS (voice-over): Tonight, these home movies serve as a mother and father's cherished memory of a young woman full of life — a daughter traveling the world to help the innocent victims of war.

KAYLA MUELLER: My name is Kayla Mueller.

ROSS: But that all ended with this video.

MUELLER: I've been here too long, and I've been very sick. It's — it's very terrifying here.

ROSS: Kayla Mueller had been taken hostage by ISIS. And for the next 17 months, her parents, Carl and Marsha, would fight for her freedom — sending their own video pleas to ISIS.

MARSHA MUELLER, MOTHER OF KAYLA MUELLER: Please: show mercy, and use your power to free our daughter.

ROSS: And exchanging some 27 e-mails from their kitchen in Prescott, Arizona to her daughter's captors in Syria — who, at one point, set a thirty-day deadline for a $6 million cash demand.

KARL MUELLER, FATHER OF KAYLA MUELLER This kind of thing tears people apart.

ROSS: Kayla had been kidnapped in Syria from a Doctors Without Borders vehicle. But in a phone call to the Muellers, the organization refused to help get Kayla back, because they said she was not working for them.

C. MUELLER (from May 22, 2014 phone call): Would your staff negotiate for Kayla?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS DIRECTOR: No!

ROSS: And after a failed U.S. rescue mission, the Muellers say a White House official threatened them and their friends with criminal prosecution if they tried to raise ransom money.

C. MUELLER: Our government slammed that door.

ROSS: After Kayla was killed in ISIS captivity, the President came to Arizona to console the Muellers. They say he made a promise to help the foundation they set up in her name, and then broke it.

ROSS (on-camera): There hasn't been such a donation?

C. MUELLER: No. I'm still waiting for that donation, Mr. President.

ROSS: Today, our team pressed the White House for an answer.

JONATHAN KARL (from White House press briefing): Can the Mueller family expect that the President — that the Obamas — will make a donation to their daughter's foundation, in the name of Kayla Mueller, soon?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The — as I mentioned, I can't speak to any previous conversations that they've had. But I can tell you that—

KARL: But is a donation coming?

EARNEST: The foundation, Kayla's Hands, that's been established in her memory is certainly the kind of foundation that the President and First Lady have supported in the past; and I would anticipate that they would make a financial contribution to continue supporting it.

ROSS: But none of that changes the Muellers' belief that the government failed their daughter.

C. MUELLER: So we put all our faith in the government, and they let us down. And they let us down.

MUIR (live): And Brian Ross is with us tonight. We know the U.S. government does not pay ransom. That's what it says — the policy is right now. Their argument — that it would encourage more cases like this one — but since her death, there has been one change?

ROSS: Well, David, the policy does remain. The U.S. government won't pay ransom. But now, families of hostages are allowed to raise money themselves without facing the threat of prosecution — a direct result of what happened to Kayla Mueller and the other American hostages who were killed by ISIS.

MUIR: Brian Ross with us tonight — and we should point out: Brian will have much more this evening at 10 pm Eastern on a special edition of '20/20.' Brian, I'll see you then.

NB Daily Foreign Policy Iraq Middle East Syria War on Terrorism Liberals & Democrats Islam ABC 20/20 World News Tonight Video ISIS ISIL Brian Ross David Muir Barack Obama
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