When asked about a harsh exchange between Donald Trump and the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in action, Republican members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation are strive to avoid taking sides, reports Michael Collins.
The GOP lawmakers called Capt. Humayun Khan, killed by a suicide bomber in 2004 as he tried to save other troops, “an American hero” but were careful not to condemn Trump for ramping up his feud with the slain soldier’s parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
“The issue here is not one of the Khan family’s patriotism or sacrifice — that is indisputable — it is about stopping the encroachment of radical Islam,” U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin said. “Donald Trump remains the only candidate in this race with the strength to combat this threat and to keep Americans safe, which is why my support for him will not waver.”
Black said Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have clarified via social media that Capt. Humayun Khan “is an American hero and that his family, like every Gold Star family, is deserving of our respect.”
The Trump-Khan feud began after Khizr Khan, with his wife at his side at the Democratic National Convention, criticized Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
Responding to that aspect of the feud, Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City said “I have repeatedly said that anyone entering this country should pass a security test, not a religious test, because I believe that discriminating against anyone because of their religion is against everything we stand for.”
Humayun Khan “made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation,” said Roe, an Army veteran himself. He said Khan’s parents “deserve the respect of every American who values liberty.”
In speaking at the Democratic convention, Khizr Khan denounced Trump from the convention stage for smearing Muslims and wondered if the GOP presidential nominee has even read the Constitution. Trump fired back, suggesting Khan had “viciously” attacked him and that Khan’s wife had not been “allowed” to speak because she is Muslim.
His comments drew wide condemnation from fellow Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who said that while Trump may be the GOP party’s nominee, he does not have “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
Tennessee Republicans, however, offered praise for the fallen soldier without directly criticizing Trump.
“Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero who served his country honorably,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood. “He and his family deserve the utmost respect, and it is appropriate that the Trump campaign has clarified its belief that Khan was a brave warrior who saved lives and protected American values.”
Sen. Bob Corker’s office said he “is proud of our men and women in uniform, including Captain Khan, who courageously gave his life in defense of our country. He believes Captain Khan’s service to our nation should be celebrated.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander “is grateful for the service of Captain Khan and the sacrifices he and his family have made for this country,” his spokesman said.