Barack Obama addresses the killing of Medill alum James Foley

Tyler Pager and Rebecca Savransky

President Barack Obama addressed the execution of Medill alumnus James Foley on Wednesday calling his killing “an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world.”

Foley (Medill ‘08), a freelance photojournalist, was beheaded by ISIS in a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday. The authenticity of the video was confirmed Wednesday in a statement by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.

Speaking from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Obama emphasized Foley’s courage in his pursuit to share stories from countries ridden by conflict.

“Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places bearing witness to the lives of people a world away,” Obama said. “He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there.”

Obama also addressed the brutality of ISIS, also referred to as ISIL, calling it a terrorist organization with an empty ideology and saying the group has “no place in the 21st century.”

“Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers,” Obama said. “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”

Secretary of State John Kerry also released a statement Wednesday afternoon commending Foley’s persistence in reporting.

“James Foley went to the darkest of places to shine the light of truth. Nothing could stop him from sharing with the world the reality of what was happening on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the struggle against a brutal dictator in Libya, and he was just as determined to do the same from Syria,” Kerry wrote. “He was brave and bold, and no masked coward can ever steal the legacy of this courageous American who lived out the meaning of the word journalism.”

Diane and John Foley, the parents of James Foley, also held a press conference Wednesday afternoon outside of their home in Rochester, New Hampshire. They said Obama called them prior to addressing the nation.

“We believe he was a martyr for freedom,” John Foley said. “He was courageous to the end.”

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