When Savannah Guthrie sat down with the parents and brother of slain ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller, she had the challenge of being sensitive to a grieving family while also trying to find answers to questions surrounding her death.
Speaking to TODAY.com for our "Behind the Interview" series, Guthrie recalled the delicate balance she struck when speaking to the family in February in the first interview for Kayla's parents, Marsha and Carl Mueller, and her brother, Eric, since Kayla's death had been confirmed.
"This is one of those interviews that has stayed with me for a long time,'' Guthrie said.
Mueller, 26, was an American aid worker who traveled with her then-boyfriend to the Turkish-Syrian border in December 2012 to assist Syrian refugees. She was taken hostage by ISIS in Aleppo, Syria, while leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital on Aug. 4, 2013. She was confirmed dead Feb. 10 of this year, with ISIS claiming she was killed in an airstrike from Jordan, a U.S. ally, although no definitive cause of her death ever emerged.
"There is this tension between your heart just going out to the people before you...and yet I know as a journalist and as a reporter there are questions I should ask and that I know our viewers have and it wouldn't be right not to ask them,'' Guthrie said.
The family spoke with Guthrie from their home in Prescott, Arizona, as they alternately celebrated Kayla's life and answered questions about whether her decision to go to Syria was reckless and whether they felt the U.S. government did enough to try to rescue her. The family also spoke about the non-profit foundation, Kayla's Hands, created in her memory to further her humanitarian efforts locally and internationally.
"She's not just a name, she's not just a headline you read — she's a real person who meant everything to us,'' Guthrie said about the family's motivation to tell her story.
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