President Obama met privately Thursday in Miami with the parents of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who was killed last summer by the Islamic State.
Obama met with Art and Shirley Sotloff and Steven’s sister, Lauren, and expressed his and the first lady’s condolences for the freelance reporter’s death, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. The visit came as Obama toured the National Hurricane Center in Miami, where he received a briefing on the upcoming huricane season.
Obama “appreciated the chance to hear from the Sotloffs more about Steven’s work as a journalist, including his passion for bringing the stories of people who are suffering to the rest of the world in the hope of making a positive difference, including in Syria,” Meehan said.
Obama also recognized the family’s “ 2Lives: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation”, which was created to provide support and assistance to journalists reporting from conflict areas.
Sotloff, 31, a freelance writer for Time magazine and other publications, was slain last fall, despite his mother’s pleas for mercy. The Islamic State last September posted a video showing the beheading of Sotloff, who became the second American journalist executed by the radical extremist group in reprisal for U.S. airstrikes against its fighters in northern Iraq.
Shirley Sotloff, a teacher, had released a video plea for her son’s life. She addressed her request directly to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the shadowy head of the caliphate _ or religious state _ that the Islamic State declared on the huge swaths of northern Iraq and Syria it has overrun since last June.
White House officials have said the administration dedicated significant time and resources to trying to rescue Sotloff, but the administration soon announced it would review its policies for helping the families of Americans held hostage overseas, following criticism from Congress and families of captives later executed by the Islamic State.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the review, which is focused on communication with the families and how to streamline the process, continues “in earnest.”
“We’ve been consulting with a number of folks, both sort of experts and scholars, national security experts and yes, the families of previously held hostages,” he said.