Scott defends Trump; Atwater calls for apology; Putnam calls remarks 'abhorrent and dishonorable'
Donald Trump is under increasing criticism from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Gold Star Families, military leaders and some fellow Republicans in Congress who demand that he apologize to the parents of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier.
But Gov. Rick Scott, Trump's leading Florida supporter and chairman of a Trump Super PAC, made no such demand Tuesday and spoke favorably about Trump as a candidate who will create jobs and improve the economy.
At a press conference after a Cabinet meeting, Scott, himself a Navy veteran, told Capitol reporters: "Listen to Donald Trump. He believes in our military. He wants to build up our military. He believes in this country."
Trump is mired in one of the biggest controversies of his campaign. For a presidential candidate to criticize the family of a fallen American soldier is considered far outside the bounds of conventional politics.
The current outrage over Trump's candidacy follows a speech at last week's Democratic National Convention by Khizr Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq. The father waved a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and harshly criticized Trump, saying he "smears the character of Muslims."
In response to Khan's criticism, Trump criticized Khan's wife, Ghazala Khan, for not speaking, which only intensified calls for Trump to apologize, and some members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who's locked in a re-election challenge in Wisconsin, face mounting calls to withdraw their support of Trump.
The Republican governor, asked whether Trump owes the Khan family an apology, said: "You can talk to Donald Trump. From my standpoint, I'm appreciative of everybody who serve. I'm appreciative of anybody who puts their life on the line."
All three Cabinet members are Republicans. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said that if Trump questioned why Mrs. Khan did not address the DNC, that was "out of bounds" and that Trump owes the family an apology. "He owes an apology and he owes it fast," Atwater said. The CFO said he supports Trump, will vote for Trump, and will appear with Trump at a Republican rally if asked.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said she won't reconsider her support of Trump and did not call for him to apologize, but she disagreed with Trump's comments. "He is an American patriot, an American hero, end of story," Bondi said. "Would I have ever said anything about his mother standing up there, absolutely silent, not saying anything? Absolutely not."
The third Cabinet member, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, said: "Captain Khan is an American hero. There is no question about that, and any effort to say otherwise is abhorrent and dishonorable. It makes me question how badly he (Trump) wants to win. He keeps running his mouth about the most ridiculous things and attacking a family who has sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we all enjoy."
-- With reporting by Michael Auslen and Jeremy Wallace, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau