INDIANAPOLIS -- Leading Congressional Republicans hardened their criticism Monday, in an often-times unprecedented rebuke surrounding Donald J. Trump's response to the family of a fallen Muslim Army captain, who first spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
"He is a black soul," Khizr Khan said on CNN Sunday days after the back-and-forth, a Gold Star parent at the center of the controversy. "And this is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country."
The confrontation has taken on a life of its own as Trump questioned whether Khan's wife was forbidden to speak at the DNC, then proclaimed he had no right to question his knowledge of the Constitution.
"Maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say," Trump said in an interview with ABC News. "You tell me."
Trump continued his response Monday on Twitter.
Yet the largest criticism from leading Republicans came Monday, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McCDonnell (R-Ky.) who publicly expressed support for the Khan family while reiterating their opposition to Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigration into the U.S. from terror-prone countries.
"In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier's parents," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. “He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
Both Senators Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) released statements Monday as well, calling Khan an American hero.
Sen. Coats said:
“Captain Humayun Khan is a true American hero who paid the ultimate price for the country he loved. He represents the best about our nation, and all Americans should all be grateful to his family for Captain Khan’s valor and service.”
Sen. Donnelly said:
“Captain Humayan Khan was an American hero, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country and to protect his fellow soldiers. As a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the overwhelming grief felt by the Khan family. Captain Khan’s parents, and every Gold Star family, deserve our utmost respect and admiration.”
Late Sunday vice presidential nominee Indiana Gov. Mike Pence tried to squall the backlash by releasing the following statement:
"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.
Captain Khan gave his life to defend our country in the global war on terror. Due to the disastrous decisions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a once stable Middle East has now been overrun by ISIS. This must not stand.
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."
Donald Trump will support our military and their families and we will defeat the enemies of our freedom."
"They try to make a political football out of it, and it's not political," Don Schauwecker said, an Indiana Gold Star parent. "No politics, no race and no religion."
Don and Janice Schauwecker are Gold Star parents who lost their son Richard Blakley, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.
"When you talk about Gold Star families you should be respectful of what they've gone through, what they're still going through," she said. "Their loss, and also to be proud of the service their family and their son and daughter has offered to our country. Because they've done what they did, we have the right to sit here and talk about it."