Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rhetorically attacked the Muslim American parents who appeared at the Democratic National Convention last week and criticized him while telling the story of their son, who died while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Trump, in an interview to air Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” implied that Khizr Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan died in Iraq in 2004, was being used by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The Republican standard-bearer also chided Khizr Khan’s wife, Ghazala, for standing silently as her husband delivered one of the most powerful speeches at the convention in Philadelphia.
“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say,” Trump said in a recorded interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
Ghazala Khan told MSNBC in an interview Friday that she didn’t speak because she is still distraught by her son’s death. The Khans stood on the convention stage with a picture of their son behind them.
“I was very nervous because I cannot see my son’s picture, and I cannot even come in the room where his pictures are. And that’s why,” she said. “I saw the picture [behind] my back, I couldn’t take it and I controlled myself at that time.”
As criticism over Trump’s remarks mounted, his campaign released a statement late Saturday night in which he praised Humayun Khan for making the “the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe” but doubled down on his criticism of Khizr Khan.
“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,” Trump said in the statement.
Khizr Khan spoke critically of Trump Thursday, challenging his comments about Muslims and his call to restrict Muslim immigration to the United States. He said Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one” and doubted that the celebrity real estate mogul was familiar with the U.S. Constitution.
“Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?” he rhetorically asked Trump as he pulled a copy from his suit jacket pocket. “I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’”
Some congressional Republicans said Trump said he would defend Article XII of the Constitution during a closed-door meeting last month with House Republicans.
The U.S. Constitution only has seven articles.
Clinton, in a statement Saturday, commended the Khan family, saying she was “very moved to see Ghazala Khan stand bravely and with dignity in support of her son on Thursday night.”
“And I was very moved to hear her speak last night, bravely and with dignity, about her son's life and the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” Clinton said. “This is a time for all Americans to stand with the Khans, and with all the families whose children have died in service to our country. And this is a time to honor the sacrifice of Captain Khan and all the fallen. Captain Khan and his family represent the best of America, and we salute them.”
Trump, in the ABC interview, said Khizr Khan “probably looked like a nice guy to me.” But he also suggested that Khan’s words Thursday were not his own.
“Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s script writers write it?” Trump said. “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.”
His comments about the Khans sparked outrage Saturday. John Weaver, a strategist for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, tweeted: “Trump's slur against Captain Khan's mother is, even for him, beyond the pale. He has NO redeeming qualities.”
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Trump “smeared” a family with comments that “are beyond the pale for a presidential candidate.” He challenged Republican leaders Saturday night to denounce Trump.
“If these were normal times, this would be a disqualifier for a presidential candidate, but these aren’t normal times,” Hooper said. “How do you decide to smear a family that has sacrificed one of its sons in the service of the nation? Thin-skinned doesn’t define it.”