On Sunday morning, Khizr Khan sat down with NBC’s Chuck Todd for an interview on Meet The Press, responding to the ongoing controversy between his family and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Khan delivered perhaps the most evocative speech of the DNC last week, memorializing his son Humayun Khan who was killed serving in Iraq in 2004, and challenging Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals.
In particular, he accused Trump of never having sacrificed anything, and questioned whether he’d ever even read the U.S. Constitution. It brought the house down, basically ? not just with cheers, but with teary eyes too.
Since then, there’s been an ongoing war of words in the media between Khizr, his wife Ghazala, and Trump himself. Trump insinuated to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that Ghazala Khan might have been forbidden from speaking, since she merely silently stood by her husband’s side during his remarks to the DNC. As she told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Friday night, she didn’t speak due to her immense grief over her son’s death. Trump also released a statement saying that while Humayun Khan was a “hero,” his father had “no right” to criticize him in the way he did.
The back-and-forth has generated a tremendous amount of controversy. Suffice to say, presidential nominees normally don’t spend their time sparring with the parents of America’s dead war heroes, or smearing them with anti-Muslim insinuations.
As such, it’s no surprise that Khizr decided to speak out once more, this time to a national TV audience on NBC’s flagship political morning show. Todd started things off by asking Khizr if he expected his DNC speech to have such a massive emotional impact on so many people. Khizr said he hadn’t anticipated it, and was surprised by the weight of the reactions.
“Not at all. I was surprised myself. I spoke from heart. Those were my thoughts, and edited by my wonderful wife. I would read it to her while getting ready, while traveling on the train, and she would edit.”
According to Khizr, his wife Ghazala nixed some of what he wanted to say, telling him that it wasn’t the right time. Todd, naturally, asked what it was that he’d cut from his speech, and Khan explained that it was a more forceful indictment of Trump’s “moral compass.”
“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. This candidate is void of both. So, she asked me to not say that. So I deleted that.”
Khizr maintained that he didn’t “manufacture these incidents” to any extent, highlighting Trump’s disparagement of his wife (and implication that he might have domineered her into silence) as evidence of the candidate’s disrespect and lack of empathy. Ghazala also responded to Trump in a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday, and the couple have denounced his attacks to ABC News.
Khizr also touched on his appeals to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, whom he’s publicly called on to denounce Trump and to not support the GOP nominee in the general election. Khizr told Todd that he was a fan of both politicians, and respects their roles within a democratic political system, but also believes that some issues should supersede partisan loyalties.
He confirmed that some elected Republicans have contacted him sympathetically, although he declined to name names, saying they spoke with him in an understanding of trust and confidence. Khizr spoke to how overwhelming the support has been among regular people as well, saying that he’d been stopped and hugged by total strangers as he left his hotel on the way to record the interview.
There have been a number of high-profile comments made since the airing of Khan’s interview, from both sides of the political aisle. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reportedly spoke in support of the Khans while on the campaign trail on Sunday, saying that Trump offered the Khans nothing but “degrading comments about Muslims, a total misunderstanding of what made our country great, religious freedom, religious liberty.” She also said that Khizr knows these things are in the Constitution, “because he’s actually read it.”
On the other hand, McConnell and Ryan also weighed in with a statement on Sunday, siding with the Khans against Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. Neither used very forceful language, however. McConnell characterized the proposed ban as “simply contrary to American values,” and never once mentioned Trump by name. Ryan’s statement similarly made no mention of the party nominee.
A religious test for entering our country is not reflective of America's fundamental values. I reject it. pic.twitter.com/DdsYj2XoLS— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) July 31, 2016
Khizr also appeared on CNN on Sunday, and he made a few far more aggressive condemnations of Trump, referring to “the blackness of his character, of his soul.”
“For this candidate for presidency to not be aware of respect for a Gold Star mother standing there, and he had to take that shot at her—this is the height of ignorance. This is why I showed him that Constitution, if he’d read that, he’d know the status that a Gold Star mother holds in this nation. This country holds such a person in the highest regard. He has no knowledge, no awareness. That is the height of his ignorance. She is ill, she had high blood pressure. People that know her, looked at her face, and she said “I may fall off the stage.” … this person is totally incapable of empathy. I want his family to counsel him, teach him some empathy. He will be a better person if he could become?but he is a black soul.”
Khizr once again called for McConnell and Ryan to speak out, saying “the lack of moral courage with remain a burden on their souls.”
It could prove to be hugely consequential where this goes next, especially if Trump takes this bitter feuding any further. With a pair of inspirational, articulate and still-grieving parents in his cross-hairs, he may have started a public fight he not only doesn’t know how to handle but simply cannot win.