Republican lawmakers have joined Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in accusing Donald Trump of defaming Khizr Khan, the father of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier, who condemned the Republican nominee at the Democratic National Convention.
McCain declared in a statement Monday that Trump does not represent the GOP.
“While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us,” McCain said.
Trump said in an initial tweet: “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over TV doing the same – Nice!”
In a statement Saturday night, Trump acknowledged Capt. Khan is a “hero” but said “the real problems here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm.”
Appearing on behalf of Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last Thursday, Khan, who was accompanied on stage by his wife Ghazala Khan, criticized Trump for proposing to temporarily halt migration from countries that have exported Muslim terrorists and to build a wall on America’s southern border.
Khan accused Trump of proposing to violate the U.S. Constitution, apparently presuming the Constitution forbids vetting foreigners who want to enter the U.S. from countries known to harbor terrorists.
Khan later said Trump is a “black soul,” and Trump responded with a tweet insisting Khan has “no right” to criticize him in a public forum.
“I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement, said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a Vietnam veteran who was held captive for five and a half years.
“I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates,” he said.
Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004 after he confronted a bomb-packed taxi that drove into a compound while he was inspecting soldiers on guard duty. He told the soldiers to drop to the ground then went to stop the car, which exploded, killing him and two Iraqi soldiers. He was buried in Arlington with full military honors and posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
In Twitter messages, other Republicans joined McCain in condemning Trump.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said: “This is so incredibly disrespectful of a family that endured the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the Khans “have made the greatest possible sacrifice for our country; they deserve to be heard and respected.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., reacted to McCain’s statement with: “Well said.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said: “No one should criticize grieving parents who have lost a son in combat. Capt. Khan was an American hero.”
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said Capt. Khan and his family “should have the gratitude of every American of every race, color, and creed.”
Trump: Capt. Khan ‘made the ultimate sacrifice’
On Saturday, Trump issued a statement calling Khan “a hero” and urging vigilance in defeating radical Islamic terrorism.
“Captain Humayun Khan was a hero to our country and we should honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe,” Trump said. “The real problems here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm.”
Trump explained that with the “state of the world today, we have to know everything about those looking to enter our country, and given the state of chaos in some of these countries, that is impossible.”
“While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things. If I become president, I will make America safe again.”
On NBC’s “Today” on Monday, Khizr Khan said, referring to Trump, “this candidate amazes me – his ignorance.”
“He can get up and malign the entire nation – the religions, the communities, the minorities, the judges,” Khan said. “And yet, a private citizen in this political process, in his candidacy for the stewardship for this country – I cannot say what I feel? That proves the point: He has not read the Constitution of this country.”
Ghazala Khan, in a Washington Post op-ed, defended Islam, saying that if Trump “studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.”
In an interview with CNN, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., noted Trump complimented Khizr Khan and “praised his son who gave his life for this country.”
“Mr. Khan’s son served in the military, he did his duty and he gave his life for America and that deserves to be celebrated, absolutely,” Sessions said. “But I don’t think anybody that says that we ought to slow down and be more careful about bringing in immigrants from countries that have terrorist tendencies and can’t be vetted properly, I don’t believe that that’s a person that lacks a soul.”
Breitbart News reported Khizr Khan has deep ties to the government of Saudi Arabia and to international Islamist investors through his own law firm. He also has ties, according to Breitbart, to controversial immigration programs that enable wealthy foreigners to buy their way into the United States.
‘Hold Hillary accountable’
In his statement Saturday, Trump said Hillary Clinton “should be held accountable for her central role in destabilizing the Middle East.”
“She voted to send the United States to war against Iraq, helped lead the disastrous withdrawal of American troops years later that created the vacuum allowing the rise of ISIS, and has never met a regime change she didn’t like (which have all been disasters) – not to mention her invasion of Libya and her abandonment of American personnel in Benghazi,” he said.
McCain, in his statement Monday, spoke directly to the Khans.
“I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America,” he said. “We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation – and he will never be forgotten.”
In a statement, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Capt. Khan “and all the Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, deserve our deepest respect and gratitude.”
“I will always work to serve our nation’s service members and veterans, and honor those who gave their lives to defend our freedoms,” he said.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said there is “no greater sacrifice than to lay down one’s life for their country, and that’s the sacrifice that Captain Humayun Khan made fighting to defend our freedom and our constitutional rights.”
“He was a true American hero,” she said. “The Khan family deserves nothing less than our deepest support, respect, and gratitude, and they have every right to express themselves in any way they choose. I am appalled that Donald Trump would disparage them and that he had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of the controversy, “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen.”
In a statement to ABC, Graham said, “There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics – that you don’t do – like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”
“If you’re going to be the leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t. The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”