Warmbiers give 1st interview since son Otto's death: North Korea 'destroyed him'
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - The parents of an American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea and died days after his return to the U.S. this summer slammed North Korea as a terrorist state.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier gave their first TV interview since their son Otto's death on "Fox & Friends" Tuesday morning.
"Now we see North Korea claiming to be a victim and that the world is picking on them," Fred told host Ainsley Earhardt. "We're here to tell you North Korea's not a victim - they're terrorists. They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him.
"They are not victims, they're terrorists."
Otto, 22, was a University of Virginia student visiting North Korea with China-based Young Pioneer Tours in January 2016 when he was accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016. North Korea released him - in a coma - in June 2017. The Wyoming, Ohio native was flown to Cincinnati June 13 and passed away six days later.
In a statement released the day of Otto's death, Fred and Cindy said their son was unable to see, speak or react to verbal commands: "He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that."
"We thought he was in a coma, but you couldn't call it a coma," Cindy said Tuesday. Though Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, informed her Otto had suffered "severe brain damage," she remained optimistic he would one day recover.
Fred described the gut-wrenching moment they were reunited with their son at the airport. "We heard this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound. We weren't really certain what it was. We climbed to the top of the steps and we looked in and Otto was on the stretcher across, in the plane, and he was jerking violently, making these inhuman sounds."
He said of Otto's condition, "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."
"They destroyed him," Cindy said, adding she thinks North Korea sent her son home because he was going to die.
On Twitter Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump praised the Warmbiers for their "great interview," noting their son had been "tortured beyond belief."
Fred had previously credited Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the State Department for Otto's release.
The Warmbiers said they were astounded to discover North Korea isn't listed as a state sponsor of terror.
"We owe it to the world to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terror," Fred urged.
The grieving parents said they and their other two children, Austin and Greta, have begun to heal.