Published August 26, 2016
Despite promising the parents of Islamic State hostage victim Kayla Mueller he would donate to a foundation set up in her name, President Obama still has not contributed to the group – 17 months later.
ABC News first reported on the president’s unfulfilled pledge, as Kayla’s father Carl Mueller told the network about the president’s commitment that day.
“He says I will help that foundation. He says you won’t know, it’ll be an anonymous donation, but I will,” Carl Mueller recalled, describing the meeting with the president as he consoled the grieving family in March 2015.
Mueller said, “I’m still waiting for that donation, Mr. President.”
The White House confirmed the president has not made the donation – but said he intends to.
"The President as well as senior members of his team have praised the work of Kayla's Hands, which carries on the spirit of service and selflessness that defined Kayla. The President will continue to support the goals of the organization in different ways, including by making a donation, as pledged to the Mueller family," a White House official said in a statement Friday.
Militants captured Kayla Mueller and her boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, in August 2013 after the couple left a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria, where he had been hired to fix the facility's internet service. The ISIS fighters beat Alkhani but released him after two months.
U.S. officials confirmed last year Kayla Mueller was killed in captivity. The cause of her death remains murky, though ISIS claimed a Jordanian airstrike killed her – which the White House denies.
Her case stoked a national debate over the lengths to which families should be able to go to pursue the release of loved ones. The Muellers said the administration had threatened them with prosecution if they paid ransom to ISIS.
Obama in 2015 called such threats “totally unacceptable.” As part of a hostage policy review, Obama clarified that U.S. policy does not prevent families from communicating with hostage-takers.
White House spokesman Ned Price told ABC News the U.S. “worked tirelessly to recover Kayla Mueller, as well as the other American hostages held by ISIL in Syria, using every tool at our disposal.”
ABC News also aired a dramatic 10-second video showing Kayla Mueller pleading for help shortly after Islamic State fighters kidnapped her in Syria.
The brief clip served as her proof-of-life video.
"My name is Kayla Mueller... I need your help," she was reported as saying in the video. "I've been here too long, and I've been very sick. It's, it's very terrifying here."
Carl Mueller told ABC News he didn’t make his comment about Obama’s non-donation lightly.
“You see the flag at my driveway. It’s not something I take lightly, talking about our president that way, but that’s what he said,” he said.
The Obamas have contributed thousands to other charities. According to the White House statement on their tax returns, they donated over $64,000 in 2015 to 34 different groups, representing about 14.7 percent of their adjusted gross income. The largest reported donation was to the Fisher House Foundation.
Fox News’ Lesa Jansen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.