Former Sen. Joe Donnelly shuts down Pence's line of attack over ISIS hostages

Pence speaks at the debate.
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence targeted Joe Biden on Wednesday over the Obama administration's handling of ISIS hostages, having invited the parents of Kayla Mueller, who was killed by members of the Islamic State in 2015, to the debate hall, and claiming the former VP blew "an opportunity" to save her.

But former Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) had a different recollection of Biden's efforts to bring home ISIS hostages when he was serving under President Obama, as well as of then-Indiana Gov. Pence's participation. "Mr. Vice President, out of respect for the Kassig family, I have never discussed, in a political forum, my efforts as Indiana's United States Senator to free Peter Kassig and the other hostages from ISIS captivity," he tweeted Wednesday night. "Your comments tonight leave me no choice."

"As you know, I (and so many others) worked day after day with the Obama/Biden administration, our military, and others to try and bring Peter and the others home from ISIS captivity," Donnelly went on. "We worked nonstop to see the Kassig family together again with their son, and I was heartbroken we could not get him home. I know firsthand the hard work put in by these Patriots, including the Administration, that you criticize tonight."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

He added: "One thing I do clearly remember is I saw and spoke to those in the Obama/Biden administration in this all out effort to free Peter and the other hostages much more than I saw or heard from you about this effort."

Kassig, like Mueller, was an aid worker in Syria; he was from Indiana, where Pence was governor at the time, and killed by ISIS in 2014. Pence's attempt to redirect the conversation to terrorism was likely an attempt to move to more "favorable terrain" for the Trump administration, Axios reports.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.