Was Joe Biden finally shamed into meeting with Austin Tice’s parents at the White House? Debra Tice was a guest at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night. WHCA president Steve Portnoy pointed her out in the crowd and the audience clapped for her. Biden mentioned her in his speech by saying he would like to meet with her. Would the parents of an American journalist held hostage for ten years in Syria be granted a private meeting with Biden if he had not become aware of being in the same room with her that evening?
The real question is whether or not Biden was aware of Austin Tice’s situation before Saturday night. It’s pretty easy to think that Biden doesn’t really know about a whole lot of what is going on these days. His mental acuity is easily questioned on any day ending with y. His team was able to secure a prisoner swap for the release of Trevor Reed recently, so that was a success to be touted. There is no clear indication that Biden had much to do with that, though, but he did finally meet with Trevor’s parents after Jen Psaki was asked why Biden chose to not meet with them when he was in Texas. The Reeds showed up hoping to get Biden’s attention but were told Biden didn’t have time to spare. After that, they went to the White House and protested across the street to get attention. They eventually were allowed to meet with Biden. Maybe shaming this administration into action is the way to go.
Austin Tice has been held since 2012 and is believed to be in Syria. His parents have aggressively sought his release since then. The freelance journalist and Marine veteran was honored in April by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy for his courage and service in reporting on Syria’s civil war. He was a student at Georgetown University. The United States Government is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading directly to Austin’s safe location, recovery, and return. His family resides in Houston.
In May of 2012, the summer before Austin’s final year at Georgetown Law School, he chose to go to Syria as a freelance journalist. Austin went to tell the story of the ongoing conflict there and its impact on the ordinary people of Syria.
In August 2012, Austin made his way just south of Damascus to write his final pieces. He planned to depart for Lebanon on August 14, three days after his 31st birthday. He got into a car in the Damascus suburb of Darayya to make the trip, but shortly after leaving was detained at a check point.
Five weeks later, a 43-second video emerged with the title, “Austin Tice is Alive”. It showed Austin being held by a group of unidentified armed men. No other message accompanied the video. This is the only information we have received from his captors. No one has contacted us to claim responsibility, nor have we been told what is required to secure his safe release. Most importantly we, the United States government, and other credible sources believe Austin is alive. We also believe the Syrian government is best able to assist with Austin’s safe return.
Austin is 40 years old now. Senator John Cornyn has been active in doing what he can to seek the release of Austin and keep his story in the eye of the public. Ted Cruz has taken up the cause, too. I’ve followed his story, especially since he’s a Houstonian. So, it was a pleasant surprise to see his mother, Debra Tice, introduced Saturday night as a guest at the WHCA dinner. I wondered then if this was the latest action that became available to the family to remind the public that Austin is still being held hostage overseas.
Biden’s national security team is reported to have met with his parents a couple of times but this was the first time that Biden agreed to meet with Marc and Debra Tice at the White House. It’s not a coincidence that their meeting took place after that dinner. Jen Psaki confirmed the meeting. It would not have happened if she had not gotten Biden’s attention at the dinner.
‘During their meeting, the President reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available avenues to secure Austin’s long overdue return to his family,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement summarizing the meeting with Marc and Debra Tice.
She described the encounter as an outgrowth of ‘multiple meetings and conversations’ between the Tice family and White House national security officials.
‘After the president made those comments, obviously we went into action to work to set up the meeting,’ Psaki said Monday, adding that the White House has ‘been very closely engaged with the family.’
‘Today’s meeting built on multiple meetings and conversations between the Tice family and the President’s national security team, which will remain in regular contact with the Tices and other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.
‘We appreciate the bravery and candor of families enduring these harrowing experiences, and we remain committed to supporting them and, most importantly, reuniting them with their loved ones,’ she said in a statement.
In the last days of the Trump administration, an attempt was made to secure Tice’s release but it was unsuccessful.
In the final months of the Trump administration, two U.S. officials – including the government’s top hostage negotiator, Roger Carstens – made a secret visit to Damascus to seek information on Tice and other Americans who have disappeared in Syria.
It was the highest-level talk in years between the U.S. and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, though Syrian officials offered no meaningful information on Tice.
Trump had excellent success in securing the release of Americans held hostage overseas, by the way. Let’s hope Team Biden can continue on with that level of success for others being held against their will.
On Wednesday, families of Americans being held hostage around the world will hold a media availability and a press conference in Lafayette park in D.C. The Trevor Reed family (Father Joey and Sister Taylor) will appear along with Elizabeth Whelan (Paul’s sister) for their first joint media availability since Trevor’s release. Trevor is not yet ready to speak to the media and will not attend. (Paul Whelan is still being held in Russia.) Family members of American hostages & wrongful detainees are launching “Bring Our Families Home Campaign”. They will hold a demonstration in Lafayette Park to call on the White House to take decisive action to bring their loved ones home.
What are your thoughts on the story? Let us know in the comments below!