Donald Trump responded to the moving speeches of the father of an American hero at the Democratic National Convention by questioning why his wife stood at his side but did not speak.
The remarks were clearly intended to question whether the couple’s Islamic faith precluded her from speaking so publicly.
Khizr Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004, gave one of the most stirring speeches of the convention when he questioned what sacrifices Trump had made for his country. Khan’s wife, Ghazala, appeared beside him at the lectern but did not speak.
Trump suggested in two separate interviews that Ghazala Khan had been blocked from speaking.
“I’d like to hear his wife say something,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview published Friday.
“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,” he said in an interview with ABC on Saturday.
A visibly shaken Ghazala Khan spoke at length about her son during an interview with MSNBC on Friday. She said she had to work to keep her composure onstage at the DNC because she is still grief-stricken.
“[I] was very nervous, because I cannot see my son’s picture, I cannot even come in the room where his pictures are,” she said of her appearance at the DNC.
She also recounted her last conversation, on Mother’s Day. “‘Be safe, and don’t become hero for me, just be my son, come back as a son,’” she recalled, fighting back tears. “He came back as a hero.”
Reacting to Trump’s comments about the fallen soldier’s mother, the Khan family issued an emotional and stinging rebuke of Trump.
“Running for president is not an entitlement to disrespect Gold Star families and [a] Gold Star mother not realizing her pain. Shame on him! Shame on his family,” Khizr Khan told ABC News.
“He has no decency,” Khan said.
“Sacrifice, I don’t think he knows the meaning of sacrifice,” Ghazal Khan said. “Because when I was standing there, all America felt my pain. Without saying a single word. Everybody felt that pain.”
“I am very upset when I heard when he said that I didn’t say anything. I was in pain,” she said, her voice gripped in emotion. “If you were in pain you fight or you don’t say anything, I’m not a fighter, I can’t fight. So the best thing I do was quiet.”
“I don’t know what type of Islam he has read or heard,” she said in response to Trump’s suggestion that she wasn’t allowed to speak. “I’m so sorry about that, that he has not had any idea what the Islam is.”
Trump released a statement late Saturday praising Mr. and Mrs. Khan’s son, and arguing that Mr. Khan was wrong ask Trump, “have you even read the U.S. Constitution?” in his DNC speech:
“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,” the statement read.
“Given the state of the world today, we have to know everything about those looking to enter our country, and given the state of chaos in some of these countries, that is impossible. 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. If I become President, I will make America safe again.”
Trump’s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Ghazala Khan for speaking about her grief so publicly.
“I was very moved to see Ghazala Khan stand bravely and with dignity in support of her son on Thursday night,” Clinton said in a statement to ABC News. “And I was very moved to hear her speak last night, bravely and with dignity, about her son’s life and the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country.”
The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America defended the Khan family, after Trump claimed he had made sacrifices of his own, without actually naming any. Trump went on to boast of business successes and made charity work claims.
“For anyone to compare his ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant,” said IAVA CEO Paul Rieckhoff in a statement to ABC News. “Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving.”