Parents join in her claims that suspects were framed, drawing rebuke from Republican lawmaker
(Updates with parents also saying sons were framed, rebuke from congressman)
As reporters scrutinized the lives of the Boston bombing suspects, a woman who said she was their aunt berated reporters and said her nephews may have been set up. Later, the suspects' parents joined in claims that they had been framed.
Few of us would be as poised as we might like to imagine if news cameras were suddenly in our faces. And Maret Tsarnaeva was reeling from allegations that her nephews, one dead and one on the run, carried out the worst domestic terror attack since 9/11.
But she still came off as argumentative and condescending at a time when others are pleading for understanding.
"You guys, I wish you were lawyers like me, because when I listen and speak…" she told reporters at one point, before the footage was cut off. The interview with Tsarnaeva, who lives in Toronto, aired nationwide.
"Clearly she is under a state of denial or not really aware of the full impact of what has happened here," said CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Later, reporters tracked down the suspects' parents, both of whom also said they believed the suspects were framed. Their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, said the family never talked about terrorism and that her older son was "controlled by the FBI" for years.
That drew an immediate rebuke from U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. He noted that the suspects, who have Chechen roots, were welcomed into the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan.
"To be saying the FBI set them up or the FBI controlled them is just absolutely wrong and it's really offensive," King said on CNN. "I mean here's a country that gave them sanctuary, gave them asylum… and to turn against the country like this… It's bad enough what their sons did, but for the parents to attack the country, to me, is wrong."
The aunt and parents' demeanor was strikingly different from that of the suspects' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who said he wanted to kneel before the victims and beg forgiveness.
Tsarni told reporters Friday morning that all Chechens were being judged because of the actions of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who remains at large, and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died overnight.
"He put a shame on our family. He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity," Tsarni said of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. "Turn yourself in."
Tsarnaeva, meanwhile, declined to say who she thought had framed her nephews.
"Who is interested in this case?" she told a reporter. "When you are blowing up people, and you want to bring attention to something, for some purpose — you do that math. Why don't you do that math? Why me? I am used to being set up."
Story continues after CNN video:
She said she lived a straightlaced life when she lived in the former Soviet Union, and was accumstomed to having to prove herself two or three times over because she is Chechen. She said she had brought the suspects to the United States when they were young, and that at least one of them had been granted refugee status. They lived with their mother and two sisters, she said.
She also said the older suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was a practicing Muslim but was married to a Christian woman and had a child with her.
Some have rushed to a presumption that the bombers must have been radical Muslims. But a marriage to a Christian woman might shed doubt on that theory.
"He was not devout practicing," Tsarnaeva said. "But just recently maybe, two years ago, he started praying five times a day."
She said she would rather he pray than drink or use drugs.
She also said the suspects' father was "soft-hearted" and had high expectations for his sons. She said at one point that the father "never goes anywhere with his wife" leading to one of many moments when she corrected a reporter.
When the reporter asked about him never traveling with his wife, Tsarnaeva corrected, "without. Without wife. Because he loves her. Dearly." She was apparently unaware that the reporter was only repeating what Tsarnaeva had mistakently said earlier.
She also said she had no indication that her nephews did not like the United States.
"If they don't like, they leave," she said.