Donald Trump‘s feud with the parents of a fallen Muslim-American solider reached a tipping point on Monday as the Republican nominee backed off his criticism amid denouncements from members of his own party.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose late son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, have become the primary ignition point in the post-convention world of the 2016 election after Mr. Khan delivered a poignant rebuke of Trump during last week’s Democratic National Convention with Mrs. Khan standing solemnly by his side.
During the speech, Mr. Khan said Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, had sacrificed nothing for his country and seems to have never read the U.S. Constitution. In an interview with ABC’s This Week, Trump responded, “I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. … I think they’re sacrifices.”
Further, Trump suggested that Mrs. Khan “wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” insinuating that her husband forbid her from speaking because he is Muslim. On Monday, Trump redirected his comments to focus on “radical Islamic terrorism” rather than the Khan family.
I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2016
Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S. Get smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
Mrs. Khan pushed back against Trump’s thinly veiled insults in an op-ed for the Washington Post published on Sunday.
“Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything. That is not true,” Khan wrote. “My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not. My religion teaches me that all human beings are equal in God’s eyes. Husband and wife are part of each other; you should love and respect each other so you can take care of the family.”
Mr. Kahn also responded to Trump, telling Meet the Press on Sunday that Trump was “void” of empathy and a “moral compass” while explaining that his wife had helped craft his DNC speech.
“The stewardship of this country needs to be in the hands of the person who has moral compass, who can relate, who has some empathy with the citizens he wishes to lead,” Khan said. “This candidate is void of both. So, she asked me to not say that. So I deleted that.”
The feud between Trump and the Khans has evoked strong condemnation of the GOP nominee from Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who each released statements on Sunday in defense of Mr. Khan.
“Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Ryan said. “Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice—and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan—should always be honored. Period.”
McConnell said he was “grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror.” He added: “All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services.”
Neither Ryan nor McConnell mentioned Trump by name.
The strongest condemnation of Trump’s criticisms of the Khans came from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former prisoner of war whom Trump once said was “not a war hero” because he was captured.
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States—to say nothing of entering its service,” McCain said in a statement. “I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
Update 12:10pm CT, Aug. 1: The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has released a statement condemning Trump’s attacks on the Khan family.
“Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” said Brian Duffy, commander-in-chief of the VFW. “There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed. Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by all Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard.”