Pinecrest journalist Steven Sotloff's mom begs Islamic State for mercy

Shirley Sotloff speaks publicly for the first time on video and says her son is 'an innocent journalist'

Headline Goes Here

PINECREST, Fla. - It remains unclear if Steven J. Sotloff is still alive. The 31-year-old foreign correspondent's family had remained quiet to protect him since he disappeared in 2013, but on Wednesday his  mom's plea for mercy went viral.

The world watched in horror as an Islamic State militant threatened to kill him, after beheading James Foley, 40, a journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire. Sotloff grew up in Miami-Dade's Pinecrest, where his parents still live.

Social media's use as a propaganda tool has intensified ever since the gruesome video appeared on YouTube. On Twitter, the hash tag "ISISMediaBlackOut" tries to stop Islamic State propaganda, while militants' supporters were using the brutal campaign hash tag "StevensHeadinObamasHands"

"I ask you please to release my child," Shirley Sotloff said in the video with subtitles. "I ask you to use your authority to spare his life."

About 10 a.m., after AlArabiya News Network aired her message, it was news on the major news networks Wednesday and Local 10 News reported it live. The Sotloff family begged Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State's leader, to spare his life.

"As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over," Sotloff's mother said.

Sotloff's mother continued: "I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children's children. I plead with you to grant me this."

Sotloff mom also asked the Islamic State leader to follow the Prophet Muhammad and said that the Muslim prophet protected Jews and Christians.

On Twitter, some sharing the New York Times story which included portions of the video, criticized Sotloff's address of al-Bahdadi, as a leader. Others shared comments of solidarity.


Sotloff's favorite quotes:

"We Americans like our adversaries wholly inhuman; all powerful, omniscient, monstrously efficient, unhampered by any serious problems of their own, and bent only on schemes for our destruction. Whatever their real nature, we always persist in seeing them this way. It is the reflection of a philosophic weakness — of an inability to recognize any relativity in matters of friendship and enmity." -- George Kennan

"You're unlikely to get all you want; you'll probably get more of what you want if you don't issue ultimatums and leave your adversary room to maneuver; you shouldn't back your adversary into a corner, embarrass him, or humiliate him; and sometimes, the easiest way to get things done is for the top people to do them alone and in private." -- Ronald Reagan

Sotloff's interest for conflicts in the Middle East was blatant in all of his social media accounts. A friend said on Twitter that he was fluent on Arabic. On his Twitter profile, he said TIME, National Interest, Foreign Policy, Christian Science Monitor, The Diplomat,  The Long War Journal had published his reporting as a foreign correspondent.

On LinkedIn, Sotloff said he attended the University of Central Florida and described himself as a "traveling man." Before his disappearance, he shared on Instagram scenic photos of Antakya, Turkey, January 2013. He also shared photos from Atama, Syria, in 2012. That same year he shared videos on YouTube from Libya and Aleppo, Syria. He had also been to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

"Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson," his mother said in the video that aired Wednesday. "He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak."

On Twitter, he said he was a "stand-up philosopher from Miami." On Facebook, he said he liked end of World War II poet Allen Ginsberg and his two favorite quotes on Facebook were related to diplomacy. Before his Facebook account was deactivated, it showed that he liked the book, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.

His social media friends were a diverse crowd. On Instagram and Twitter profiles, there were several Middle East experts, including Steven Cook, Dubai columnist Sultan  Al Qassemi, NPR Correspondent Deborah Amos, NBC News' Ayman Mohyeldin and Associated Press' Diaaa Hadid. Sotloff had friends who were Muslim and friends who were Jewish. 

Those who know him well, know that he had a sense of humor. One of his favorite movies, according to Facebook, was The Big Lebowski, a comedy. His taste for music included Dave Matthews Band, Phish and Miles Davis --- and he liked cooking shows, according to Facebook.

Sotloff was a fan of the Miami Heat. He followed the team on Twitter. He also followed LeBron James and ESPN NBA Columnist Israel Gutierrez, who used to write for The Miami Herald. Sotloff disappeared while reporting from Syria, August 2013. His last tweet was August 3rd.

"How much of an impact with big man Greg Oden have with Miami Heat next season?"

Seven people re-tweeted his post. One of them was Local 10 News Editor Brandon Akinbiyi. It was a coincidence, Akinbiyi, of Nigeria, didn't know him when he re-tweeted it. Now, he is a fellow Miami Heat fan hoping for his release.

Copyright 2014 by CNN NewSource contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.