WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential candidate, issued a statement late Sunday praising slain U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan and his family while at the same time defending Donald Trump‘s proposal to limit Muslim immigration.
Pence’s statement came at the end of a weekend in which Trump faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his reaction to a speech made by Khan’s father, Khizr Khan, at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.
Khizr Kahn spoke Thursday, offering a harsh rebuke of Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States. He said Trump is opposed to religious freedom and dishonored the Khan family’s sacrifice.
“Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American,” Pence said in a statement Sunday. “Captain Khan gave his life to defend our country in the global war on terror.”
In his DNC address to support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Khizr Kahn said his son’s military service would never have been possible under a Trump presidency because their family would have been banned from ever immigrating to the United States.
Pence offered a defense to Trump’s immigration policy by saying suspending immigration from countries threatened by terrorism, people in the United States would be protected from the menace of the Islamic State — also known as Daesh, ISIS, or ISIL — a militant Islamist organization.
“By suspending immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism, rebuilding our military, defeating ISIS at its source and projecting strength on the global stage, we will reduce the likelihood that other American families will face the enduring heartbreak of the Khan family,” Pence said. “Donald Trump will support our military and their families and we will defeat the enemies of our freedom.”
When commenting on how Americans of all backgrounds have sacrificed their lives in the military, Khizr Kahn said Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one” because neither he nor any of his children have ever served in the armed forces.
“Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Look for the graves of brave people who died defending the United States of America. You’ll see all faiths, genders and ethnicities,” Khizr Kahn said. “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
Trump responded by saying he has sacrificed for his businesses in order to “thousands and thousands of people” while also indirectly suggesting Khizr Kahn’s speech was written by “Hillary’s script writers.”
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard,” Trump said Saturday during an ABC News interview in which he also suggested Ghazala Khan, Khizr’s wife and Humayun’s mother, was forbidden to speak during the DNC.
“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,” Trump said after saying Khizr Khan was “very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me.”
Trump later called Humayun Khan a “hero” in a tweet in which he also said the conversation is not about the captain’s death 12 years ago but about “radical Islamic terror and the weakness of our ‘leaders.'”
On Sunday, Ghazala published an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in which she responded to Trump’s comments on her on-stage silence.
“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” Ghazala Khan wrote. “Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could? Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?
“Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything. That is not true. My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not,” Ghazala Khan added. “When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant … Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”
Clinton on Sunday criticized Trump for his response to the Khan family’s appearance at the DNC in Philadelphia.
“To launch an attack as he did on Captain Khan’s mother, a Gold Star mother, who stood there on that stage with her husband honoring the sacrifice of their son,” Clinton told reporters. “I don’t know where the bounds are. I don’t know where the bottom is.”
Following the continued contentious fallout, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended Muslims who have sacrificed for their country and once again spoke out against religious tests for people seeking to enter the United States.
“America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values,” Ryan said in a statement. “I reject it. Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a one-time Republican presidential candidate, went a step further by directly condemning Trump’s remarks Saturday.
“This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen,” he said in a statement. “There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”
U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan was killed in a car bomb attack in Iraq in 2004.