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Donald Trump's feud with the family of a slain Muslim-American soldier is not going well

Republican leaders, veterans, and military families are slamming Trump for fighting with the family of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA

A growing number of Republicans, veterans, and military families are coming out in fierce opposition to Donald Trump and demanding an apology in the midst of the GOP presidential nominee's escalating feud with the family of slain Muslim-American Army Captain Humayun Khan.

The spat began after Khan's father, Khizr Khan, made a deeply emotional speech at the at the Democratic National Convention last week. In the speech, Khizr Khan criticized Trump's racially charged rhetoric and policies, questioned his patriotism, and said the Republican nominee "had sacrificed nothing."


Trump responded on Twitter, saying that he had been "viciously attacked" by the Khan family. He later said in an interview that Khan's wife, Ghazala Khan, who stood beside her husband onstage at the DNC while he delivered the speech, had been forbidden from speaking because of her Muslim faith.

"If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say," Trump said in an ABC News interview last week. "Maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say, you tell me."

In an op-ed for the Washington Post Sunday, Ghazala Khan made it clear that she was not being silenced. She described her son's heroism and love for his country, and explained she simply couldn't speak at the DNC because she continues to be overwhelmed with grief over her son's death.

Khizr Khan also spoke about why he needed to have his wife at his side during the speech in an interview Sunday on MSNBC.

"Her being there was the strength that I could hold my composure," he said. "I am much weaker than she is in such matters."

Speaking on CNN the same day, Khizr Khan said Trump has a "black soul."

As a result of the dust-up, some of the most prominent members of the Republican Party have once again found themselves distancing themselves from their own presidential nominee. This included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In statements Sunday, both leaders praised HumayunKhan's service and reiterated their opposition to Trump's proposed Muslim immigration ban. Yet neither politician mentioned Trump by name.


Other Republican leaders, however, did not hesitate to call out Trump directly. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam combat veteran and former POW whose service had been disparaged by Trump in the past, slammed the Republican nominee Monday morning with a harsh rebuke.

"In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier's parents," McCain said. "He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."

The family members of 17 slain service members penned a letter to Trump on Monday, calling his attacks on the Khan family "repugnant, and personally offensive to us."

"You are not just attacking us, you are cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost," read the letter, which was organized by the veterans advocacy group Votes for Vets. "You are minimizing the risk our service members make for all of us."

A group of Muslim-American veterans also joined the chorus of criticism against Trump, telling Buzzfeed News that this was a "new low" for the Republican nominee.

Tayyib Rashid, a former US Marine, called Trump's comments "words of prejudice and words that are insulting are beneath what a president should be saying or promoting."


Humayun Khan was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004 after he ordered his unit to stand back so he could check the vehicle himself.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, the country's oldest and largest veterans organization, condemnded Trump's feud with the Khans.

"Election year or not, VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression," said Brian Duffy, the head of VFW, in a statement Monday. "There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed."

Despite the deluge of criticism over the past 72 hours, Trump doubled down on his comments Monday morning with two more Tweets claiming he was victimized by the Khan family.

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!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)August 1, 2016

Trump then changed the subject to "RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM" in a follow up Tweet.

This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S. Get smart!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)August 1, 2016

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @OliviaLBecker