The leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate on Sunday made statements regarding the firestorm of words between party presidential nominee Donald Trump and Khirz Khan, the Muslim father of an Army captain killed in the line of duty.
Khan, during a speech at last week’s Democratic National Convention, said Trump has "sacrificed nothing and no one" for America.
Trump responded by essentially saying he’s made many sacrifices but drew criticism by questioning why Khan’s wife, Ghazala, stood silently on stage during her husband’s speech.
“She had nothing to say,” Trump said on ABC. “Maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me."
Khan had said she didn't speak because she is still overwhelmed by grief and still cannot look at photos of her son without crying.
Since the controversy started late last week, Khirz Khan has called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan to condemn Trump’s remarks.
In their statements, McConnell and Ryan each praised Khan’s son, Humayun, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, and said they disagreed with Trump’s immigration position.
Trump said this spring, in the aftermath of several terror attacks by radicalized Islamists, that Muslims should be temporarily banned from entering the United States. He has since scaled backed that position, to keeping out people from Syria and other countries that are hotbeds for radical Islamic terrorism.
However, neither McConnell or Ryan directly criticized Trump or his comments about Ghazala Kahn.
“Captain Khan was an American hero, 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,” said McConnell, of Kentucky. “And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Kahns and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.”
Ryan, of Wisconsin, wrote: “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.”
Washington Democrats almost immediatley criticized Ryan for also not pulling his endorsement of Trump.
Kahn said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he “appreciates” Trump calling his son a “hero,” but said the praise “sounds disingenuous.”
Trump on Sunday wrote two Twitter posts on the issue:
“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!”
He then tweeted: “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!”
On Sunday, Ghazala Khan further defended her actions on stage and attacked Trump.
“Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything,” she wrote in The Washington Post opinion section. “That is not true. My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not. … When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant. … Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”
Trump’s original response sparked immediate outrage on social media -- both because they critiqued a mourning mother and because many considered them racist and anti-Muslim.
On Saturday, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said: "The speaker has made clear many times that he rejects this idea, and himself has talked about how Muslim-Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country."
Hillary Clinton campaign spokeswoman Karen Finney tweeted: “Trump is truly shameless to attack the family of an American hero. Many thanks to the Khan family for your sacrifice, we stand with you.”
Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, later said in a statement: "I was very moved to see Ghazala Khan stand bravely and with dignity in support of her son on Thursday night. ... 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."
Karen Meredith, a member of Gold Star Families, a support group for families who lost loved ones in the Iraq War, said Capt. Humayun Khan’s parents “showed great courage” by standing up in front of the Democratic convention and that for Trump “to insult their culture by saying that is why she did not speak is offensive.”
On Sunday, Khizr Khan also attempted to persuade voters not to vote for Trump, saying, “I appeal to them not to vote for hate-mongering. Vote for freedom.”
He also implied that about of a third of the responses he’s gotten from Americans are from Republican politicians but said he would not disclose names.