- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2016

Donald Trump refused to apologize Monday to a Muslim family whose son, a U.S. Army captain, was killed in Iraq, drawing a further rebuke from the family, a reprimand from other Gold Star families and calls for more discipline from fellow Republicans, who said that even their presidential nominee cannot defame American heroes.

Republican leaders instead rallied to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, a Pakistani-born couple whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in a bombing in Baquba in 2004, and warned Mr. Trump to stop his criticism.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain praised the slain soldier as a hero and vehemently rejected Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on admitting Muslims into the U.S.

“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said in a statement. “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.”

Mr. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was a one-time target of Mr. Trump’s ire for having been captured.

Republican senators facing tough re-election bids this year also have rushed to put distance between themselves and Mr. Trump.

The party’s presidential nominee has refused to take their nudges and instead accused the press of distorting his point.

“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!” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter post Monday afternoon.

Hours later, at a rally in Ohio, Mr. Trump ignored the controversy altogether.

But the Khans took to the airwaves to demand that other Republicans repudiate Mr. Trump.

“This candidate’s maligning of decent, patriotic Republican[s] has continued,” Mr. Khan said on CNN’s “New Day.” “Look what he did and how he spoke about Mitt Romney. Look what he did, how he spoke with Sen. McCain. This is proof of his ignorance and arrogance, and I again and again ask his advisers to get him in a room, close the door and set him right.”

At the Democratic National Convention last week, just hours before Hillary Clinton formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Khan delivered a tribute to his son, questioned whether Mr. Trump had ever read the Constitution and charged that the Republican presidential nominee had not sacrificed anything for anyone.

Mr. Trump countered by suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s campaign wrote the speech. Mr. Trump also said he had made his own sacrifices, such as creating jobs and building companies, and he questioned why Mrs. Khan didn’t speak at the convention, instead standing silently at her husband’s side.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Monday that the issue has been misconstrued but that Mr. Khan made himself part of the story by speaking at the convention.

“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!” Mr. Trump said in a post.

He also fired a barrage of verbal shots at CNN, calling the cable network “laughable” and demanding that the network focus on such scandals as “Clinton Foundation corruption and Hillary’s pay-for-play at State Department.”

Veterans, families of fallen troops and President Obama himself all weighed in to tell Mr. Trump he had crossed an unacceptable line.

A group of Gold Star families — meaning they have lost someone in combat — called on Mr. Trump to apologize. They said his comments about the Khans “were repugnant, and personally offensive to us” and cheapened their own families’ sacrifices.

“We feel we must speak out and demand you apologize to the Khans, to all Gold Star families, and to all Americans for your offensive, and frankly anti-American, comments,” the families said in an open letter.

Brian Duffy, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group “will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression.”

“There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed,” said Mr. Duffy, who was elected Wednesday to lead the nation’s oldest and largest major war veterans organization. “Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by all Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard.”

Mr. Obama touched on the subject during an appearance at the 95th national convention of the Disabled American Veterans, saying “No one has given more for our freedom and our security than our Gold Star families.”

“We have to do everything we can for those families and honor them and be humbled by them,” he said.

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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