Donald Trump sparked bipartisan backlash after the Republican attacked the bereaved parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain who spoke at the Democratic convention last week.
Critics from both parties questioned whether Trump had the empathy and understanding to be president, particularly after he questioned why mourning mother Ghazala Khan stayed silent during her husband's Thursday night address.
Top Republican leaders in Congress released statements on Sunday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Capt. Khan's sacrifice, but did not directly address Trump.
"Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans, I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror," McConnell said. "All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services."
House Speaker Paul Ryan also weighed in, saying, "America's greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it. 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 Khizir and Ghazala Kahn - should always be honored. Period."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush added his criticism, tweeting that “This is so incredibly disrespectful of a family that endured the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
Meanwhile, many in social media have contrasted the sharp difference in tone to Trump that President George W. Bush took in 2005 after Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan held a protest on Bush's ranch in Texas demanding a meeting with the president on what she considered his failed Iraq policy, The Hill reports.
Bush responded by saying, “I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. … She has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position And I've thought long and hared about her position,.... which is to get out of Iraq now....but it would be a mistake for the security of this country....if we were to do so."
Trump's vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, issued a statement late Sunday.
"Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American," Pence said in his statement, according to Politico. "Captain Khan gave his life to defend our country in the global war on terror."
Meanwhile, former presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined in the criticism of Trump's statements, tweeting:
Kasich's tweet was re-tweeted by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
"He was kind of trying to turn that into some kind of ridicule," Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said after a campaign event in Pittsburgh. "It just demonstrates again kind of a temperamental unfitness. If you don't have any more sense of empathy than that, then I'm not sure you can learn it."
Former President Bill Clinton, who joined his wife and Kaine at the event, agreed: "I cannot conceive how you can say that about a Gold Star mother."
Lawyer Khizr Khan gave a moving tribute to their son, Humayun, who received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. During the speech, Khan's wife, Ghazala, stood quietly by his side, wearing a headscarf.
"If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me," Trump said, in an interview with ABC's "This Week."
Ghazala Khan has said she didn't speak because she's still overwhelmed by her grief and can't even look at photos of her son without crying.
Trump also disputed Khan's criticism that the billionaire businessman has "sacrificed nothing and no one" for his country.
"I've 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," Trump said.
Trump's comments sparked immediate outrage on social media, including from Republican strategists, who criticized Trump both for attacking a mourning mother and because many considered them racist and anti-Muslim.
The fight intensified Sunday with an angry tweet from Trump and an emotional interview from the soldier's father on CNN.
In an interview with CNN's "State of the Union," Khizr Khan said people are rightfully upset with the GOP nominee's attack on Khan's wife, Ghazala, calling it the "height of… ignorance."
Trump's remarks show he's"totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country," Khan said. "The world is receiving us like we have never seen. They have seen the blackness of his character, of his soul, that he is void of recognizing, empathizing with people."
Khan tells CNN he "appreciates" Trump's later response praising Khan's hero son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004.
But in an interview late Saturday with the Washington Post, Khan called the Trump statement "fake empathy."
"What he said originally, that defines him," he tells the Post. He showed his true colors when he disrespected this country's most honorable mother," calling Trump's remarks "typical of a person without a soul."
"Only those parents that have lost their son or daughter could imagine the pain that such a memory causes," he tells the Post, adding: "What has caused this stir is how those words have strengthened the hearts of people."
Hillary Clinton told voters gathered in a Youngstown gymnasium late Saturday: "Donald Trump is not a normal presidential candidate. Somebody who attacks everybody has something missing."
"He attacked the distinguished father of a soldier who sacrificed himself for his unit, Captain Khan," she said. "I think it is fair to say he is temperamentally unfit and unqualified."
Late Saturday night, Trump released a statement calling Humayun Khan "a hero" but disputing his father's characterization.
"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," said Trump.
Trump's comments about Khan came a day after he criticized retired four-star Gen. John Allen and slammed a Colorado Springs, Colorado, fire marshal for capping attendance at the event. The fire marshal, Brett Lacey, was recently honored by the city as "Civilian of the Year" for his role in helping the wounded at a 2015 mass shooting at a local Planned Parenthood.
"Our commander in chief shouldn't insult and deride our generals, retired or otherwise," Clinton told a crowd gathered Saturday on a factory floor in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Clinton has used the days following her convention to try and win back some of the white working class voters that once made up a key piece of the Democratic Party's electoral coalition. Trump's anti-trade message has appealed to those voters, who feel frustrated with an economic recovery that's largely left them behind.
While Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, attempted to sell their positive economic message, much of their strategy centers on undermining Trump, particularly the business record that makes up the core of his argument to voters.
Trump has made plans to visit some of the same areas Clinton is campaigning in during her three-day bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania, scheduling Monday stops in Columbus and Cleveland.
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