- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez - the nation’s only Latina governor and the chair of the Republican Governors Association - is joining a chorus of Republican lawmakers in disavowing Donald Trump’s repeated criticisms of a bereaved military family.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday called Army Capt. Humayun Khan an American hero while distanced herself from Trump, the GOP presidential nominee who she has not endorsed.

Khan was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004.

“Captain Khan is an American hero - period,” Martinez said in a statement to The Associated Press. “He laid down his life for his country and left behind two grieving parents who have every right to voice their opinions in the political process. Disparaging them is absolutely wrong and completely uncalled for.”

Trump broke a political and societal taboo over the weekend when he criticized Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Khizr Khan sharply criticized Trump during the Democratic National Convention.

Trump stoked further outrage by implying Ghazala Khan didn’t speak while standing alongside her husband at the convention because she’s a Muslim woman.

Those remarks drew rebukes from at least five Republican senators on Monday, including John McCain of Arizona. McCain, a former POW in the Vietnam War, said in a statement that the fact that Trump won his party’s nomination doesn’t give him “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”

The commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars also said Monday that Trump’s criticism of the Khan is unacceptable.

Brian Duffy, head of the 1.7-million-member VFW, said in a statement that election year or not, the nation’s oldest and largest war veterans group will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising their right to free speech. Gold Star families are those that have lost a close relative in military service.

Trump tweeted Monday that “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.” He said the focus should be on “radical Islamic terrorism,” not the parents.

Martinez previously denounced Trump for comments made about Mexican immigrants.

Trump harshly criticized Martinez over food stamps and unemployment numbers during an Albuquerque rally that turned violent in May. He also falsely claimed Martinez was allowing Syrian refugees to settle in New Mexico.

Trump later said he wanted an endorsement from Martinez.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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