The war of words between Donald Trump and the family of a slain Muslim-American soldier continued over the weekend, with the Republican nominee suggesting the mother did not speak on stage at last week’s Democratic National Convention because she was not “allowed” to, Ghazala Khan responding that she was in too much “pain” over the loss of her son to do so, and the father, Khizr Khan, calling Trump an ignorant, soulless candidate.
“This is the height of ignorance,” Khizr Khan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “For a candidate for presidency to not be aware of the respect of a Gold Star mother standing there, and he had to take that shot at her?
“This person is totally incapable of empathy,” Khan continued. “He is a black soul. And [he] is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country.”
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Trump floated the idea that Khan’s wife, Ghazala, had been forcibly silenced.
“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say,” Trump said. “Maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
Khan told the Washington Post his wife didn’t speak because she breaks down when she sees the photograph of her son, Humayun Khan, a 27-year-old U.S. Army captain who was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004. His image was projected onto a screen at the convention while the family was on stage.
“Emotionally and physically — she just couldn’t even stand there,” Khan told the Post. “And when we left, as soon as we got off camera, she just broke down. And the people inside, the staff, were holding her, consoling her. She was just totally emotionally spent. Only those parents that have lost their son or daughter could imagine the pain that such a memory causes. Especially when a tribute is being paid. I was holding myself together, because one of us had to be strong. Normally, she is the stronger one. But in the matter of Humayun, she just breaks down any time anyone mentions it.”
In an op-ed for the Post published Sunday morning, Ghazala Khan wrote that she was in too much pain to speak at the convention.
“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention,” she wrote. “He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain.”
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 31, 2016
“I was in pain,” she told ABC News. “If you [are] in pain you fight or you don’t say anything. I’m not a fighter, I can’t fight. So the best thing I do was [be] quiet.”
Late Saturday, the Trump campaign released a statement clarifying his remarks to Stephanopoulos.
“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 in a statement. “The real problem here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm. Given 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.”
On Sunday, Trump called Humayun Khan a “hero” again in a tweet.
Captain Khan, killed 12 years ago, was a hero, but this is about RADICAL ISLAMIC TERROR and the weakness of our "leaders" to eradicate it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2016
“This is faked empathy,” Khizr Khan told the Post. “What he said originally — that defines him.”
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
At last week’s convention, Khizr Khan delivered a stinging rebuke of Trump over his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States — a policy that would have prevented his son from serving in the U.S. military.
“Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America,” Khan said. “You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
In response, the real estate mogul said he’s sacrificed plenty.
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump told Stephanopoulos. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done, I’ve had… I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.
“Those are sacrifices?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Oh, sure,” Trump replied. “I think they’re sacrifices. I think, when I can employ thousands and thousands of people, take care of their education, take care of so many things, even in military. I mean, I was very responsible, along with a group of people, for getting the Vietnam Memorial built in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for. I raised, and I have raised, millions of dollars for the vets. I’m helping the vets a lot. I think my popularity with the vets is through the roof.”
Khan said Trump’s popularity, especially among Republicans, is what he’s concerned about.
“All the snake oil he is selling, and my patriotic, decent Americans are falling for that,” Khan told the newspaper. “Republicans are falling for that. And I can only appeal to them. Reconsider. Repudiate. It’s a moral obligation. A person void of empathy for the people he wishes to lead cannot be trusted with that leadership. To vote is a trust. And it cannot be placed in wrong hands.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Trump’s comments too.
“As the leader of America’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, I urge Donald Trump to apologize for his shameful remarks disparaging a Muslim Gold Star family and for his repeated use and promotion of anti-Muslim stereotypes,” CAIR chairman Roula Allouch said in a statement. “Just as Donald Trump must apologize for his un-American remarks, Republican Party leaders must finally repudiate their candidate’s divisive rhetoric.”
At least two GOP leaders appeared to take those calls to heart — distancing themselves from the Republican nominee.
“Captain Khan was an American hero,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “and like all Americans I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services. And as I long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a similar statement in support of the Khan family.
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
“America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it,” Ryan said. “As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it. Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period.”
Campaigning in Ohio, Hillary Clinton also condemned Trump’s comments about the Khans.
“I don’t begrudge anyone of any other faith or of no faith at all, but I do tremble before those who would scapegoat other Americans, who would insult people because of their religion, their ethnicity, their disability,” Clinton said at an African-American church in Cleveland Heights. “It’s just not how I was raised, that’s not how I was taught in my church.”