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.
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.
Her demeanor was strikingly different from that of the suspects' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who she said was her younger brother. 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 said the family is ethnically Chechen and the suspects are from Kyrgyzstan.
"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, suggested her nephews had been set up. When reporters asked who may have framed them, she responded: "Who is interested in this case? 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.
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