Donald Trump sparked bipartisan backlash after the Republican attacked the bereaved parents of a Muslim US Army captain who spoke at the Democratic convention last week.
Critics from both parties on Saturday questioned whether Trump had the empathy and understanding to be president, particularly after he questioned why mourning mother Ghazala Khan stayed silent during her husband’s Thursday night address.
“He was kind of trying to turn that into some kind of ridicule,” Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said after a campaign event in Pittsburgh.
“It just demonstrates again kind of a temperamental unfitness. If you don’t have any more sense of empathy than that, then I’m not sure you can learn it.”
Former President Bill Clinton, who joined his wife and Kaine at the event, agreed: “I cannot conceive how you can say that about a Gold Star mother.”
Lawyer Khizr Khan gave a moving tribute to their son, Humayun, who received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004.
During the speech, Khan’s wife, Ghazala, stood quietly by his side, wearing a headscarf.
“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, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”
Ghazala Khan has said she didn’t speak because she’s still overwhelmed by her grief and can’t even look at photos of her son without crying.
Trump also disputed Khan’s criticism that the billionaire businessman has “sacrificed nothing and no one” for his country.
“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments sparked immediate outrage on social media, including from Republican strategists, who criticised Trump both for attacking a mourning mother and because many considered them racist and anti-Muslim.
Senior Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, remained silent, as did vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.
Hillary Clinton told voters gathered in a Youngstown gymnasium late on Saturday: “Donald Trump is not a normal presidential candidate. Somebody who attacks everybody has something missing.
“He attacked the distinguished father of a soldier who sacrificed himself for his unit, Captain Khan,” she said. “I think it is fair to say he is temperamentally unfit and unqualified.”