Debra Tice criticizes White House over Austin Tice captivity

The mother of abducted journalist Austin Tice said Thursday that the White House has become a “hurdle” to freeing her son from captivity, suggesting that his release was not a priority for the highest levels of the Biden administration.

Debra Tice said she was particularly disappointed with President Joe Biden, who has thus far been unwilling to meet to discuss her son who was abducted in Syria more than nine years ago.

“We have not been able to get a meeting with him,” Debra Tice said at a press conference. “He has never said Austin’s name publicly. And I wonder if he’s allowed himself to forget about Austin. I don’t have any indication otherwise.”

Debra Tice said she has been in Washington for the last five weeks, meeting with government officials and urging them to work toward a release of her son who was abducted in 2012 while reporting in Syria.

But those conversations mean little unless top White House officials take action, she said.

“The things we’re discussing have to go up the chain,” Tice said. “Otherwise, we really are just having tea and crumpets.”

A senior administration official declined to reveal any details about meetings between Debra Tice and White House officials but emphasized they remain in “regular contact” with the families of those held captive while pursuing their release.

Tice said she hopes to meet personally with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan later this week and she remains hopeful that progress is being made toward his release.

“Doors are opening a bit,” Tice said. “And we need to shove those doors open and pull Austin out, right now. It’s critical.”

Biden administration officials have said that they have the “sincere belief” that Tice is alive, and in August, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Syrian President Bashar Assad has the ability to free the Texas native.

Tice, a former officer in the United States Marine Corps, was detained at a checkpoint in a suburb of Damascus. He traveled to Syria in 2012 as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and other news organizations.

Updated with comment from a senior administration official.

This story was originally published December 9, 2021 9:38 AM.

Alex Roarty has written about the Democratic Party since joining McClatchy in 2017. He’s been a campaigns reporter in Washington since 2010, after covering politics and state government in Pennsylvania during former Gov. Ed Rendell’s second term.

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