Otto Warmbier's Family Counselor Opens Up

by Lani Seelinger
Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Friday, a former diplomat who worked with Otto Warmbier's family while they were trying to bring their son home spoke to Bob Woodruff on ABC News' 20/20. Evans Revere, who retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2007 after years as one of the State Department's top experts on Asia, revealed the "emotional exchange" with his father Fred Warmbier, when he broke the news of Warmbier's medical condition.

Revere, who consults with the families of people who have been detained in North Korea, said that he had been working with the Warmbiers since right after their son was arrested in January 2016. Warmbier spent 17 months detained in North Korea before he was released home in a coma, which he reportedly fell into in March 2016. Revere was responsible of relaying that information to Fred Warmbier, Otto's father, and he said that it was "a very, very, very emotional exchange."

“I’ve never had a conversation with anyone than [the] likes of the one I had with Fred Warmbier that day. I was in tears," Revere said on ABC News of the moment.

Soon after, Warmbier was medically evacuated back to Cincinnati, Ohio. He had suffered severe brain damage and was not responsive to any stimuli, doctors said, which North Korea said was caused by botulism. Warmbier has since passed away, and his parents did not want the doctors to carry out an autopsy.

Excluding that one conversation, Revere was able to use his past experience with North Korea in order to advise the Warmbiers throughout his work with them. “I gave them the same advice that I’d given to other families,” Revere said. “They needed to be careful about the things that they might say, that the North Koreans might take offense that might cause the North Koreans to react very angrily and badly.”

In an interview to Fox News' Tucker Carlson after Warmbier's release, his father Fred harshly criticized both North Korea and the U.S. State Department. Revere said that he had also gathered that the Warmbiers were frustrated and angry with the process. “And I understand it,” he said. “I sympathize with their feelings, even if I don’t necessarily agree with how they voice those frustrations.”

While Revere was not officially involved with the State Department's work to end Warmbier's captivity, he was intimately connected to Warmbier's parents' experience of it. “I never met Otto Warmbier," Revere said, "But I have tremendous respect for him and the life that he led as a young man.”