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Trump Feud with Parents of Fallen Muslim-American Soldier Erupts Again

  • Ken Bredemeier

Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, speak with VOA's Urdu service in Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2016. (B. Allen/VOA)

Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, speak with VOA's Urdu service in Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2016. (B. Allen/VOA)

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's feud with the parents of a fallen Muslim-American soldier erupted again Monday.

Arizona Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam in the 1960s and the losing Republican presidential candidate in 2008, and other Republican lawmakers rebuked Trump for disparaging Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, as they remembered their son at last week's Democratic National Convention. The son was killed by a suicide bomber in 2004 in Iraq.

The Khans endorsed Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and have continued to speak out against Trump in television interviews, including at Voice of America.

WATCH: Khizir and Ghazala Khan talk to Muhammad Atif of VOA's Urdu Service

McCain, himself dismissed a year ago by Trump for being captured as a prisoner of war, said that the 2016 Republican nominee "has suggested that the likes" of the Khans' son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service." The Khans, with their then two-year-old son and an older brother, immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1978. A third son was born in the U.S.

"I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement," McCain said. "I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."

Asked if there is anything positive to his showdown with Trump, Khan said, "It really has come out that a significant number of Republicans are asking him to tone down. Change those derogatory remarks about minorities, not only just the Muslims, but other minorities - women, judges, the legal system of this country - and he is doing that."

Trump hits back on Twitter

Trump continued to denounce the elder Khan on Monday, saying on Twitter, "Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same — Nice!"

But Khan did not let up Monday, telling VOA, "If you look at the list of the names of the people who have disassociated with [Trump] you would be surprised — how would this candidate be elected? Is he going to be the cause of the sinking of the ship of the Republican Party?"

McCain, who has offered a tepid endorsement of Trump but has not campaigned for him, said that while Republicans have picked Trump as their nominee, "it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us."

"Lastly, I'd like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: Thank you for immigrating to America," McCain said. "We're a better country because of you. And you are certainly right: Your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten."

Brian Duffy, the head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the U.S., said Trump's criticism of the Khans was uncalled for and that the group would not tolerate attacks on families who have lost loved ones who were serving in the U.S. armed services.

"There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed," Duffy said.

Khan told CNN, "I want to maintain my dignity and my family's, my son's dignity and sacrifice." He said he wanted to tell Trump, "There was no need to comment. That's all I wish to tell him."

Pence: Younger Khan is a hero

Late Sunday, Trump's vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said he and Trump believe that the younger Khan is a hero and families like his "should be cherished by every American."

Pence moved quickly in his statement to criticizing Obama and Clinton, Obama's secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, for "disastrous decisions" that he said allowed Islamic State to overrun "a once stable Middle East."

While members of Congress, Pence and Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize the Iraq War; Obama was an Illinois state senator at that time.

The Pence statement said Trump's plans to bar immigrants from countries "compromised by terrorism," rebuilding the U.S. military and defeating Islamic State will prevent other American families from going through the same thing as the Khans.

Khizr Khan described Trump on Sunday as "totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country." The Pakistani immigrant said Trump has a "black soul."

Back story

At the Democratic convention, Khan, joined on stage by his wife, said Trump disrespects Muslims and other minorities, as well as women, judges and Republican leaders. He questioned if Trump had ever read the U.S. Constitution, and said the businessman has sacrificed nothing.

WATCH: What Mr. Khan said at the DNC

Trump responded to the comments Sunday in an interview on ABC News, suggesting that his sacrifices were comparable to the death of Khan's son.

"I think I have made a lot of sacrifices," Trump said. "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 tremendous success."

The soldier's mother did not speak during the convention appearance and later wrote that she was unable to, "Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain." She said she could not gain her composure to speak after seeing a large picture of her son on the stage.

When asked Sunday about the speech, Trump questioned why Ghazala Khan stood by her husband and did not speak.

"She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say," he said.

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