The parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq said on Sunday Donald Trump was a “black soul” and dismissed his claims to have experienced sacrifice, after the Republican presidential nominee insulted their family.
Amid widespread astonishment at Trump’s conduct, the father and mother of 27-year-old army captain Humayun Khan, who died in a suicide bombing attack in 2004, said in media appearances that Trump had proven himself unfit for office.
Khizr Khan, Humayun’s father, urged Trump’s children to intervene and fix his character after the Republican candidate mocked Khan’s wife and appeared to suggest she was blocked from paying tribute to her dead son at last week’s Democratic convention because of her religion.
Ghazala Khan, the fallen soldier’s mother, dismissed Trump’s insinuation and reiterated that she had been too upset to talk after seeing a picture of her son. “What mother could?” she wrote for the Washington Post. “Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”
The Khans were as roundly supported as Trump was condemned, after the Republican nominee criticised Ghazala Khan for standing beside her husband while he delivered a moving speech about their son and Trump’s attacks on Muslims to the Democratic gathering in Philadelphia on Thursday evening.
“His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there,” Trump told ABC’s This Week. “She had nothing to say. She probably … maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say.”
Khizr Khan told CNN’s State of the Union Trump was “totally incapable of empathy”, adding: “I want his family to counsel him. Teach him some empathy. He will be a better person, but he is a black soul.”
Reiterating his wife’s explanation that she was too overcome by grief to say anything at the event as planned, Khizr Khan expressed disbelief that Trump still “had to take that shot at her”. His wife also has high blood pressure and felt so unsteady she worried she might fall offstage, he said.
“She said, ‘You know my condition – when I see my son’s picture I cannot hold myself together,’” said Khan, becoming tearful. “This country holds such a person in the highest regard, and he has no knowledge, no awareness. That is the height of his ignorance.”
Khizr Khan said Trump lacked both the moral compass and sense of empathy necessary for any president. “This candidate is void of both traits that are necessary for the stewardship of this country,” he said.
Trump was sharply criticised by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, her running mate, and Bill Clinton, her husband and the 42nd US president.
Hillary Clinton told a campaign event on Saturday Trump was “temperamentally unfit and unqualified” to be president. Bill Clinton said: “I cannot conceive how you can say that about a Gold Star mother,” referring to the award given by the military to mark a death in combat.
But Trump also faced criticism for his extraordinary remarks from Republicans. John Kasich, the Ohio governor and former competitor for the presidential nomination, said on Twitter: “There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect. Capt. Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family.”
Khizr Khan said on Sunday that he and his wife had been inundated with messages of support since his speech including from “distinguished Republicans” who “have seen the blackness of [Trump’s] character.”
Ignoring calls from some conservative commentators to cease hostilities with the Khans, Trump again insisted on having the final word on Sunday. “I was viciously attacked by Mr Khan at the Democratic Convention,” he said on Twitter following their remarks. “Am I not allowed to respond?”
Trump was also ridiculed for disputing Khan’s comment in his speech that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one” while disparaging Muslims including those like his son who had died for their country.
“I think I have made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump told ABC. “I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures … I’ve had tremendous success.”
Asked whether he was seriously stating that this amounted to sacrifice, Trump replied: “Oh, sure. I think they’re sacrifices.”
Describing Trump as “ignorant”, Ghazala Khan joined other critics in disputing the Republican nominee’s claims. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices,” she wrote. “He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”
The first two opinion polls taken after the end of last week’s Democratic convention indicated that Hillary Clinton had received a “bounce” in her ratings and had retaken a lead against Trump. Her national support stands at 44.5% against 43.4% for Trump, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.