Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump belittled the parents of a slain Muslim soldier who had strongly denounced Trump during the Democratic National Convention, saying that the soldier's father had delivered the entire speech because his mother was not "allowed" to speak.
Trump's comments, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that will air today, were his most extensive remarks since Khizr Khan on Thursday delivered one of the most powerful speeches of the convention in Philadelphia. In it, Khan spoke about how his 27-year-old son, Humayun Khan, an Army captain, sacrificed his life in a car bombing in 2004 in Iraq as he tried to save other troops.
He criticized Trump, saying he "consistently smears the character of Muslims," and pointedly challenged what sacrifices Trump himself had made. Khan's wife, Ghazala, stood silently by his side.
Trump told Stephanopoulos that Khizr Khan seemed like a "nice guy" and that he wished him "the best of luck." But, he added, "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."
The comment implied that she was not allowed to speak because of female subservience that is expected in some traditional strains of Islam. Trump also told Maureen Dowd of the New York Times on Friday night, "I'd like to hear his wife say something."
The negative remarks about the mother of a dead soldier drew quick and widespread condemnation, and even given Trump's history of retaliating when attacked, they were startling. They called to mind one of the earliest thrusts of his campaign, when he responded to criticism from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once a prisoner of war in Vietnam, by saying at an Iowa forum, "I like people that weren't captured."
But McCain has a long history in the public eye. The Khans, before their convention appearance, had spent no time in the public eye.
In an interview Saturday, Khizr Khan lashed out at Trump, saying, "He is devoid of feeling the pain of a mother who has sacrificed her son."
"Trump is totally void of any decency because he is unaware of how to talk to a Gold Star family and how to speak to a Gold Star mother," said Khan, referring to the term for surviving family members of those who died in war.
He said his wife did not talk Thursday because she finds it too painful to speak about her son's death. Ghazala Khan herself spoke publicly Friday to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, saying she "cannot even come in the room where his pictures are."
When she saw her son's photo on the screen behind her on the stage in Philadelphia, she said, "I couldn't take it."
"I controlled myself at that time," she said. "It is very hard."
In his interview with the New York Times, Khizr Khan said his wife did help him craft the remarks and even told him to remove certain attacks he had wanted to make against Trump.
Trump's comments provoked another avalanche of criticism on social media and again put Republican leaders in a difficult position, facing fresh demands that they repudiate their presidential nominee.