CBS NEWS – After Khizr Khan gave a blistering denunciation of Donald Trump at last week’s Democratic national convention, the week-long public spat between Khan — the Muslim father of a U.S. Army captain killed in the Iraq War — and the GOP nominee reached a boiling point Sunday.
Khan — whose wife stood silently beside him last week on the Philadelphia stage as a photo of their slain son Humayun filled the screen behind them — told CNN in an interview that he believed Trump was a person “totally incapable of empathy.”
“I want his family to counsel him, teach him some empathy,” he said. “He is a black soul. And this is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country.”
Khan responded directly to Trump, who last week questioned his wife Ghazala Khan’s non-speaking role at the convention and suggested that it was because their Muslim faith prevented her from talking.
It was none of that, Khan relayed to CNN. Instead, Khan said his wife told him: “You know my condition. When I see my son’s picture, I cannot hold myself together.”
“For this candidate for presidency to not be aware of the respect of a Gold Star Mother standing there, and he had to take that shot at her, this is height of ignorance,” Khan said. “This is why I showed him that Constitution. Had he read that, he would know what status a Gold Star Mother holds in this nation. This country holds such a person in the highest regard. And he has no knowledge, no awareness.”
Ghazala, for her part, has publicly spoken out twice about her son since the convention, appearing on MSNBC Friday night and then publishing an editorial in the Washington Post Sunday.
“I cannot walk into a room with pictures of Humayun,” she wrote in the Post. “Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. Does [Trump] really need to wonder why I did not speak?”
Over the weekend, Trump’s campaign tried to minimize the fallout from their candidate’s comments, blasting out press releases of Trump calling Captain Humayun Khan a “hero.”
“Captain Humayun Khan was a hero to our country and we should honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe. The real problem here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm,” Trump said in a statement Saturday evening. “While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”
And on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort defended his candidate against the Khans’ attacks.
“Mr. Trump and all of us give him our sympathy and empathy for the loss of his son. I mean, that was a real tragedy,” Manafort said Sunday. “The issue is not Mr. Khan and Donald Trump, the issue really is radical Islamic jihad and the risk to the American homeland. That’s the issue.”
Khan gave a nod to Trump’s statements in his Sunday morning CNN interview, saying “I appreciate his response, his press release that was issued last night, confirming that he accepts my son as a hero of this country.”
But on Sunday, Trump took to Twitter for this last parting shot in the Khan feud:
Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan meanwhile, have defended the Khans in light of Trump’s remarks, though neither openly criticized Trump by name.
In a statement Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Captain Khan “an American hero.”
“[L]ike all Americans I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan have made in the war on terror,” he said, before weighing in on Trump’s controversial Muslim ban. “I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.”
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News Saturday: “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,” but there was no reference either to the Khans or to Trump.
On Sunday, Ryan released a statement that was more pointed, but also did not mention the GOP nominee by name.
“As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it,” the statement read. “Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice–and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan–should always be honored. Period.”
Former Trump rival Ohio Gov. John Kasich echoed that sentiment.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, was more direct — she criticized Trump by name.
According to the Associated Press, Ayotte released a statement saying of the Khans that she was “appalled that Donald Trump would disparage them” and that Trump “had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family.”
And New Hampshire Republican party chair, Jennifer Horn, who has criticized Trump in the past, said in a statement that she was “stunned by his lack of understanding for their sacrifice.” She continued, “There is no sacrifice comparable to giving your life in defense of others. To even suggest such a thing is reprehensible and shows a total lack of understanding and compassion.”