WASHINGTON—Donald Trump’s outspoken style helped get him the Republican Party’s nomination for president, but his critical comments about the family of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq have brought condemnations from party officials and veterans groups.
Senator John McCain said he deeply disagrees with Trump’s suggestions that those like Army Captain Humayon Khan should not be allowed in the country.
«I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates,» McCain said. «It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party. While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.»
McCain was a Navy combat pilot during the Vietnam War and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. Earlier in the campaign, Trump denigrated McCain’s status as a war hero, saying he prefers people who do not get captured.
Senator Chuck Grassley said the families of military service members are owed «the utmost respect.»
«Mr. Trump’s comments are not in line with my own beliefs about how the members of the military and their families should be treated, and respect for the people who serve our country is something both presidential campaigns could use more of,» he said.
Khan’s father, Khizr, and mother, Ghazala, appeared at the Democratic National Convention with a message calling Trump disrespectful of Muslims, women and Republican leaders, and also questioning if Trump has sacrificed anything.
Trump responded by saying he was attacked by the Khans and saying he sacrificed a lot in putting up buildings and creating jobs. He also questioned why Ghazala Khan did not speak at the convention, which she said she was unable to do while seeing a picture of her son.
A group of 23 families of fallen soldiers released a letter to Trump calling his comments «repugnant and personally offensive.»
«When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice,» they wrote. «This goes beyond politics. It is about a sense of decency. That kind decency you mock as ‘political correctness.'»
The group Veterans of Foreign Wars said Trump’s comments are «out of bounds.»
«Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,» VFW national commander Brian Duffy said.
Khizr Khan was asked during an interview Monday with VOA’s Urdu service whether he thought anything useful will come from his feud with Trump.
«It really has come out, It really, really has come out that a significant larger number of Republicans are asking him to tone down, change those derogatory remarks about minorities, not only just Muslims but other minorities,» Khan said.
He further expressed worry about the consequences if Trump becomes the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military and wondered whether U.S. forces would follow his orders.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, called Humayon Khan a hero and blamed the policies of President Barack Obama and this year’s Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, for allowing Islamic State to overrun a «once stable Middle East.»
Trump wrote in a Twitter post Monday that the debate is not about the Khans, but about «radical Islamic terrorism.»
He said later at a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio that the entire electoral process is corrupt and he fears the November 8 election «is going to be rigged.»
Clinton made an appearance in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, but did not make any mention of the Khans and Trump, instead focusing on the economy.
A number of new polls since the Democratic convention ended last week indicate Clinton regaining her lead. One from CBS News put Clinton ahead 46 percent to 39 percent, while a CNN poll put her lead at 52 to 43 percent.