Sen. Mark Kirk and challenger Tammy Duckworth both called out presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday over his war of words with the parents of a fallen Army captain.
Kirk said Trump should “lay off the Gold Star family. They have given as much as can be given.”
The Republican senator said the Khan family should be respected, not criticized, after their son Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber on June 8, 2004.
Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan criticized Trump for proposing to temporarily freeze the entry of foreign Muslims into the U.S. and accused him of making no sacrifices for his country.
The billionaire businessman challenged that assertion and also implied Ghazala Khan’s religion prevented her from speaking. On Monday, he tweeted that “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same.”
Kirk, who revoked his backing of Trump in early June, said, “In my world, a veteran that gave up their life is someone who’s almost sacred.”
“If the family gets involved in politics then, of course, people are going to argue back — that’s your First Amendment right,” Kirk said, but attacking a Gold Star family is inappropriate.
Later Monday, Democrat Tammy Duckworth called Trump’s statements “despicable” and expressed her condolences for the Khan family’s loss.
“Their service and sacrifice are more than most Americans will know,” the Iraq War veteran said. “They should receive nothing but our gratitude.”
Republican lawmakers and veterans groups hastened to disavow Trump’s criticism.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, led the charge, saying Trump did not have “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s oldest and largest veterans organization, called Trump out of bounds for tangling with the Khans.
“Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” VFW leader Brian Duffy said.
Contributing: The Associated Press