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Gold Star father Khizr Khan offers condolences to Otto Warmbier family



The Gold Star father of slain US Army Capt. Humayun Khan offered his condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died after his release from imprisonment in North Korea.

“Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their courage, for their patience, for their putting up with this amazing, amazing political expediency on the part of Donald Trump,” said Khizr, Khan’s father, during a CNN interview Friday evening.

Khan, a naturalized Muslim-American and a graduate of the University of Virginia, was killed by an improvised bomb in Iraq in 2004. Khan planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an attorney.

Twenty-two-year-old Warmbier was also a University of Virginia student. He was on a five-day tour of North Korea when he was sentenced to 15 years in hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. Warmbier was detained for 17 months until his repatriation back to the US, but was found to have been in an extended coma. He died soon after.

“Otto was [a] student of University of Virginia, [the] same school … where Capt. Humayun Khan went to school,” Khizr said. “So I feel a special connection with Otto, and he will never be forgotten. We want [the] Warmbier family to know that we stand with them. America stands with them. All decent Americans stands with them.”

Read more: ‘I will take him at his word’: Trump sides with North Korea and says Kim Jong Un had no idea Otto Warmbier was in ‘horrible’ condition

Otto Frederick Warmbier is taken to North Korea’s top court in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Trump was widely panned for showering praise to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after their first summit in Singapore.

This week, Trump continued the trend during his second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, and he said he believed Kim and the regime’s “top leadership” had no idea of the “horrible” conditions Warmbier had been through.

“In those prisons, and those camps, you have a lot of people,” Trump said Friday in Hanoi. “And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things.”

“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump added on Friday, local time in Hanoi.

Warmbier’s parents, who initially refrained from voicing their opinion to be “respectful during this summit process,” broke their silence on Friday.

“Now we must speak out,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “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,” they added. “No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”

Read more: ‘You think I’m stupid, I’m not going to Vietnam’: Trump allegedly told Michael Cohen there was no chance of him deploying during the Vietnam War

Fred and Cindy Warmbier at the United Nations headquarters, May 3, 2018.
Frank Franklin II/AP

Fred and Cindy have continued to hold Kim responsible for the death of Warmbier. In what was mostly a symbolic gesture in December 2018, a federal judge sided with Warmbier’s parents and ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million for his wrongful death.

“I can’t let Otto die in vain,” Cindy said during a United Nations meeting last May. “We’re not special, but we’re Americans and we know what freedom’s like, and we have to stand up for this. We have to.”

Critics responded to Trump’s remarks and alleged that he often appears to side with known international despots, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salaman. Trump appeared to brush off the characterization and claimed his remarks about Kim were “misinterpreted.”

“Remember, I got Otto out along with three others,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to three Korean-American hostages who were released in May 2018 after negotiations.

“Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death,” he added in another tweet. “Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often.”

Read more: Trump says he was ‘misinterpreted’ after criticism over taking Kim Jong Un’s ‘word’ on Otto Warmbier’s death

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump during their Singapore summit, June 12, 2018.
Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty

Khizr stepped into the political stage in 2016, when he and his wife, Ghazala, openly supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and criticized then-candidate Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims,” Khizr said at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. “He disrespects other minorities — women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.”

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery,” Khizr added. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Trump responded by suggesting Khizr’s comments were written by Hillary Clinton’s “scriptwriters.” Trump also fueled a theory that Ghazala, who was mostly silent on the stage, was not allowed to talk as a form of subservience.

Trump later signed a bill renaming a Virginia post office after Khan and would refer to him as a “hero to our country.”

Khizr did not appear swayed by Trump’s comments; however, and remained skeptical of his sincerity.

“Donald Trump lacks empathy,” Khizr said on CNN. “Most unfit person for the office of the President of the United States.”

“The people that you lead, the people that you guide, the people that you claim to be leading — you empathize with them,” Khizr said. “You feel their pain. You feel their suffering. You feel what they’re going through. But this president has disappointed time after time.”

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