White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough denied accusations that the families of murdered journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were threatened with prosecution if ransom was paid to terrorists to free the men.
Last week, Diane Foley, the mother of executed journalist James Foley, told the media that the federal government threatened to file lawsuits against her and her family if they raised money to pay the ransom for their son. Following Diane Foley’s claims, the family of Sotloff corroborated their story and said that they had faced the same threats from the government.
On Sunday McDonough gave several interviews to media outlets advocating the Obama administration’s strategies for fighting the Islamic State and denied that threats were made against the families. “We didn’t threaten anybody, but we made clear what the law is. That’s our responsibility to make sure we explain the law and uphold the law,” said McDonough.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said “It’s part of our job to help the family understand what our laws are about terrorists paying – or paying ransom to terrorists? Absolutely. But this Department would never and did not ever intend to nor do we think we ever did anything that we would consider threatening.”
McDonough and Harf made the denials despite ABC News reporting that five officials connected to Foley’s case confirmed that threats were made.