Major mess-up! WH chief of staff accidentally reveals first name of ISIS hostage

Denis McDonough / Photo credit:

Close on the heels of the beheading of Haruna Yukawa, one of two Japanese hostages held by Islamic State militants, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough disclosed the name of the only U.S. female ISIS prisoner against her family’s request. She’s also the only American hostage still alive.

McDonough made what the White House concedes is a gaffe during his Sunday appearance on ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

After discussing the surviving Japanese hostage, Stephanopoulos asked McDonough about the woman, who was taken hostage while serving as a humanitarian aid worker in Syria.

McDonough first addressed the remaining Japanese hostage.

“Well, the president had a good talk overnight our time here with Prime Minister [Shinzō] Abe, underscoring our continued support for and partnership with the Japanese,” he said. “They making this huge investment halfway around the world like we are in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.”

Then he turned his attention to the remaining American hostage:

And as it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively. We are sparing no expense, and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home. But [REDACTED] family knows how strongly the president feels about this and we will continue to work this.

The woman is one of four Americans taken hostage by Islamic State militants. The remaining three were beheaded in2014. They were journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig.

In August, when ISIS demanded $6.6 million and the release of U.S.-held prisoners in exchange for the woman, a family representative requested that the woman’s identity not be disclosed. At that time, she was described only by her gender and age, 26, according to ABC News.

Former CNN host Piers Morgan, normally an Obama administration supporter, had a single-word description for McDonough:

The White House declined a request by Foreign Policy to address McDonough’s gaffe, “out of concern for … the victim,” Foreign Policy reported.

“We won’t discuss ongoing cases out of concern for the safety of the victims. The U.S. government will spare no effort to recover U.S. hostages and hold those who take them hostage accountable,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey wrote.

Politico made a similar request, and received this answer:

“We don’t have anything to add, other than to request again that you not use the name of the individual,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, who’s traveling with President Barack Obama in India, said.

It’s probably a bit late for that. Her name is already out there, thanks to Obama’s chief of staff.


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