Updated on August 1 at 11:16 a.m. ET
NEWS BRIEF A number of Republican lawmakers are severely criticizing Donald Trump for his remarks about the parents of a Muslim soldier who died while deployed, but stopping short of withdrawing their support of the GOP nominee.
On Monday morning, Senator John McCain issued a statement, saying that Trump’s comments are not representative of the GOP, but he refrained from pulling his endorsement. “I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement,” he said. “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.” Last year, Trump said McCain was “not a war hero” despite being a prisoner of war.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, died while serving in Iraq, appeared before the Democratic National Convention last week. Khizr Khan delivered a blistering rebuke of Trump, who has called for a temporary ban of Muslims entering the United States. “Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America,’” Khizr Khan said. “If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims … Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’”
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos over the weekend, Trump shot back. He questioned why Ghazala Khan, who stood by Khizr Khan during the speech, wasn’t allowed to talk. “His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there,” Trump said. “She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.” (In an editorial in The Washington Post, Ghazala Khan said her emotions kept her from speaking.) He shifted the focus to terrorism and later told Stephanopoulos that he, too, had “made a lot of sacrifices” when asked about Khizr Khan’s comment that Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one.”
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, released a statement on Sunday, saying, “Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American.” He then blamed Obama and Hillary Clinton for instability in the Middle East and defended Trump’s stance on immigration as one factor to “reduce the likelihood that other American families will face the enduring heartbreak of the Khan family.”
Responses from other lawmakers trickled in. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced Trump’s Muslim ban and commended Captain Humayun Khan in separate statements. But neither Ryan or McConnell, both of whom have endorsed Trump, made mention of the Republican nominee in their statement.
Senator Kelly Ayotte was more forceful in her response. “I am appalled that Donald Trump would disparage [the Khans] and that he had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family,” she said. Senator Lindsey Graham also reacted to Trump’s remarks: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen.” Senator Roy Blunt released a statement, saying “My advice to Donald Trump has been and will continue to be to focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton.” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said, “Service to our country is above politics. I believe that each of us are called every day to show our deepest respect and gratitude to all of those who protect our freedom and their families.”
Former presidential candidates John Kasich and Jeb Bush chimed in on Twitter. “There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect. Capt. Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family,” Kasich said in a tweet. Bush also reacted: “This is so incredibly disrespectful of a family that endured the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
For his part, Trump is not backing down.