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Ernst Announces State of the Union Guest

Hagit Chen’s son has been held by Hamas for over 150 Days

WASHINGTON – Ahead of the State of the Union, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced that she will be hosting Hagit Chen, the mother of 19-year-old Itay Chen, whose son has been held hostage by Iran-backed Hamas since the October 7 attack on Israel.

As President Joe Biden addresses Congress Thursday, Ernst will be continuing her call for this administration to do everything in its power to release our citizens from the hands of terrorists and bring Americans home immediately.

“For over 150 days, Iran-backed Hamas has held hostage six of our citizens, including Hagit Chen’s son Itay, but these terrorists have not paid a price,” Ernst said. “My heart breaks for Hagit and her husband Ruby, who are experiencing an agony no parent should ever have to endure. It is clear that President Biden has failed our families and the security of American citizens. As I bring our hostage families’ concerns to the highest level during this State of the Union, I will continue to hold the entire Biden administration’s feet to the fire to release our citizens immediately and stop Hamas from torturing our families. There must be no more delay in bringing our hostages home.”

“Thank you, Senator Ernst for your unwavering support and leadership to bring our American hostages home. Your kind invitation to this week’s State of the Union address is critical to keeping the public’s attention on the agony of the hostage families,” said Ruby and Hagit Chen.


In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on Israel by Iran-backed Hamas, Ernst met with the hostage families in Israel and has remained in close contact with them.

In October 2023, Ernst led a bipartisan group of her colleagues urging President Biden to focus his full attention on freeing American hostages taken by Hamas. In December, Ernst led a bipartisan letter calling on President Joe Biden to leverage the U.S. diplomatic relationship with Qatar to secure the immediate release of the remaining hostages.

In January 2024, she returned from leading a bipartisan, bicameral delegation to Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Bahrain solely focused on securing the immediate release of American hostages and continues her work to bring them home.