NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday called Islamic State militants "evil" and demanded that President Barack Obama destroy them after a video surfaced purporting to show the beheading of freelance journalist Seven Sotloff who has ties to the state.
Scott launched a two-week re-election bus tour on Labor Day and planned on Tuesday to hold his second political rally of the day at a hardware store. But during the stop Scott said he was canceling the event and instead asked supporters to give a moment of silence to Sotloff.
The Republican governor then criticized Obama for not having a "strategy" to respond to the militants that he called "immoral" and "barbarians."
"He's got to start taking this seriously, we have got to destroy this evil," Scott said.
Sotloff has ties to Florida. His mother lives in the Miami area, and he attended the University of Central Florida from 2002 to 2004.
Sotloff's mother released a video statement last week begging the militants to release her son. He had been kidnapped over a year ago while working as a freelance reporter covering the Syrian conflict.
UCF President John Hitt said Tuesday that university officials "join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act."
Other Florida leaders on Tuesday also reacted to the news about Sotloff.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement that the United States must go after the militants "right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that's intent on barbaric cruelty." He also said he is filing legislation to give Obama clear authority to carry out airstrikes against the militants.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called Sotloff a "man of enormous courage and decency."
"As Steven was a native of Florida, my office has been in contact with his family throughout their ordeal, and today my heart goes out to all who loved him as they make the painful transition from fear to grief," Rubio said in a statement.
Rubio added that the Islamic State militants represented "a threat to the American people, our allies, and the principles of freedom and human rights that we cherish."