WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Numerous Republican lawmakers and veterans groups are joining the rising chorus of criticism of Donald Trump for his disparagement of the bereaved parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim who was awarded a Bronze Star after he was killed in 2004 in Iraq.
But as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, Trump refused to back down. He complained anew Monday that he had been “viciously attacked” by the parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain who was killed in Iraq. But he seemed to soften his tone in a Fox News interview late Monday.
The roll of GOP senators publicly taking Trump to task reached at least five on Monday, including John McCain of Arizona, who issued an extensive statement denouncing Trump’s comments about Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala.
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service,” McCain said. “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.”
McCain said the fact Trump won his party’s nomination doesn’t give him “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s oldest and largest veterans organization, also joined the criticism. They called Trump out of bounds for tangling with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son was killed in 2004.
“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 leader Brian Duffy said.
Democratic President Barack Obama chimed in, too, addressing the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta. He said of families who have lost family members in the military service: “No one has given more to our freedom and our security than our Gold Star families… They represent the very best of our country.”
The Khans have made multiple television appearances since last week’s Democratic convention, when Khan criticized Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.
At the convention, Pakistan-born Khan told the story of his son, who also earned a Purple Heart. He questioned whether Trump had ever read the Constitution and said “you have sacrificed nothing.”
Trump later disputed Khan’s criticism, saying he’s made “a lot of sacrifices.”
“I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures,” he said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Saturday, adding, “Sure, those are sacrifices.”
Trump stoked more outrage by implying that Ghazala Khan did not speak alongside her husband at the convention because they’re Muslim.
“I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America,” McCain added in his statement Monday. “We’re a better country because of you.”
Trump has previously said McCain shouldn’t be regarded as a war hero for being imprisoned in Vietnam, saying “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri advised Trump Monday to “focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton.”
Blunt said the Khans “deserve to be heard and respected.”
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said that “Capt. Humayun Khan, and all the Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, deserve our deepest respect and gratitude.”
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said through a spokeswoman that he “does not agree with Donald Trump’s remarks and believes that Captain Khan was an American hero who gave his life for his country.”
Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said, “The Khan family, like all Americans who lose loved ones in the defense of our country, deserve our gratitude and honor. Anything else is inappropriate.”
Of the three, only Toomey has refused to endorse Trump.
Numerous other lawmakers have also weighed in.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a vulnerable Republican in a competitive Colorado district, said Monday he was “deeply offended when Donald Trump fails to honor the sacrifices of all of our brave soldiers who were lost in that war.” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said the Khans “deserve to be heard and respected.”
“My advice to Donald Trump has been and will continue to be to focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton,” Blunt said in a statement.
In statements released Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan condemned any criticism of Muslim Americans who serve their country and rejected the idea of a Muslim travel ban — an idea proposed by Trump earlier in the campaign. But neither statement mentioned Trump by name or repudiated him.
McConnell praised Capt. Khan as an “American hero,” while Ryan noted that many Muslim Americans have served “valiantly” in the U.S. military.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee also said he’s dismayed by the attacks on the Khans.
With no mention of Trump’s name, Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas said in a statement Monday that “there is never enough honor we can show” to the families of U.S. service members who are killed in action.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, issued a statement that appears designed to put some space between the two men atop the GOP ticket.
The father of a Marine, Pence said that he and Trump believe Capt. Khan is a hero and his family “should be cherished by every American.”
And among Democrats, Mayor Bill de Blasio also slammed Trump for his comments Monday and said he expected it would be the final nail in the coffin for Trump’s campaign.
“There are still some unifying realities in American life. We have tremendous respect for our military. And we have ultimate respect for families who have lost their children serving their country,” de Blasio said. “You cannot insult one of those families and get away with it.”
Berkshire Hathaway chief executive officer Warren Buffett, campaigning in Nebraska with Clinton, also slammed Trump.
“I ask Donald Trump, have you no sense of decency sir?” he said.
But Trump did have some defenders, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
“If Donald Trump were the president, Captain Khan would be alive today because he would’ve never entered the Iraq War in the first place,” Lewandowski said.
Trump himself took to Twitter Monday, saying Khizr Khan “viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!”
In a second tweet Monday, Trump said: “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!”
Advised that Trump was watching on Monday, Khizr Khan said on CNN Monday that Trump needs to find more “empathy” and find a way to work together with others.
Khan and is wife also said they would like to step away from the public feud with Trump.
“I really want to maintain mine and my family’s dignity. I spoke what was appropriate, and if he’s watching, just imagine – there is no need to comment the way he commented, that initiated this conversation. I again say, we want to maintain our dignity. We want to maintain my family’s dignity; my son’s dignity, and his sacrifice,” Khizr Khan said of Trump on CNN Monday. “And he should listen to America; what America and the world is telling about the remarks; about the lack of empathy, and that’s all I wish to convey to him – that a good leader has one trait.”
Khan also told CNN Monday: “We want to be out of this controversy. That is not our style. This is not our path.” He said “there was no need” for Trump to comment further, saying “We want to maintain our dignity.”
His wife, Ghazala Khan, also addressed Trump’s comments suggesting she was silent at the Democratic National Convention because the Muslim religion would not allow her to speak.
“My religion or my family or my culture never stopped me from saying what I want to say,” Ghazala Khan said. “I have all the rights as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter.”‘
Trump said late Monday that Captain Khan was a hero, and seemed to soften his tone.
“Whenever you have the Gold Star Families – whenever you have, you know, what you and I have discussed in the past – I mean, these are great people; great families, frankly,” Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News.
Trump spent the day campaigning in Ohio and Pennsylvania Monday. He cried foul about how the primary ended for Democrat Bernie Sanders and suggested that he thought the general election could be “rigged.”
“Bernie. Poor Bernie…. You know what? He made a mistake. He shouldn’t have made a deal. Sometimes…. He lost. He lost. (But) first of all, it was rigged,” Trump said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio Monday. “And I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged, I have to be honest.”
The business mogul has already complained about the dates of the presidential debates that were set by a bipartisan commission in September of last year, upset that two of the three debates will be up against National Football League games
Trump also attempted to clarify his position on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia after giving a muddled answer over the weekend. He explained that when he said Russia wouldn’t move into Ukraine, he was referring to a time when he would be president.
“I said very simply: they’re not going to do it on my watch, essentially,” Trump said. “I said Russia will not go into the Ukraine. I said that.
“When I said, ‘Believe me, Russia’s not going into Ukraine, alright?’ They’re not going into Ukraine. The person said, ‘But they’re already in Ukraine.’ I said, ‘Well that was two years ago.’ That’s – I mean – do you want to go back? Do you want to have World War III to get it back? That was during Obama’s watch,” Trump went on.
And in the meantime Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Clinton was fending off critics for a response she gave to a question on Fox News about her emails.
Chris Wallace said FBI Director James Comey had said Clinton’s comments about her private email server to the American public were not true.
“Chris, that’s not what I heard Director Comey say,” Clinton said. “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people.”
But the Washington Post had trouble believing Clinton, giving her “four Pinocchios” for her answer.
Comey has said there is no evidence that Clinton lied to the FBI, but he did not say she had been truthful to the American people.
Trump will campaign in Virginia on Tuesday, and Clinton will next head to Colorado.
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