PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed escalated his outspoken attacks on Donald Trump Saturday evening after the Republican presidential nominee made controversial comments about the family of a Muslim American soldier killed in the Iraq war.
Khizr Khan gave a much-praised speech at the Democratic National Convention excoriating Trump for his remarks about Muslims, with his wife, Ghazala, by his side. Their son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in action in 2004 and posthumously received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military heroism.
Trump responded by questioning whether Ghazala had even been allowed to speak, which some took as an allusion to the status of women in Islam, and by saying he too had “made a lot of sacrifices” as a successful businessman. (While Ghazala did not speak at the convention, she later gave an emotional interview to MSNBC.)
“Mr. Trump’s comments are contemptible,” Reed said in a statement. “Insulting Gold Star families is a new low. Families like the Khans who’ve lost a son or daughter on the battlefield have given everything to our country, Mr. Trump has given nothing.”
Reed also served in the Army and is now the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as a Hillary Clinton supporter. He’s criticized Trump repeatedly over the past two weeks after the GOP nominee questioned the NATO alliance and suggested Russia should attempt to hack into Clinton’s emails; the string of biting statements are somewhat out of the character for the soft-spoken senator.
In a follow-up interview, Reed acknowledged he usually tries to avoid hyper-partisan rhetoric but said he felt compelled to speak out because Trump is saying things he’s never seen from a presidential nominee in his lifetime.
“When someone disparages the family of a fallen soldier, that is absolutely contemptible,” Reed told WPRI.com, later calling it “outrageous and beneath contempt.” He occasionally struggled to find the words to express his thinking about the Republican nominee.
“This is the first election – and this is not unique to me – when the nominee from a major party appears to have no substance or plan other than his own self-adoration,” he said. “We’re not talking about a difference in policy, we’re not talking about different approaches to complex problems – we’re talking about someone who’s not on a campaign but an ego trip.”
The top Republican in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, tried to distance himself from Trump’s comments. Referring to Trump’s call for some sort of Muslim ban, Ryan’s spokeswoman told media outlets, “The speaker has made clear many times that he rejects this idea, and himself has talked about how Muslim Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who lost the primary to Trump and has refused to endorse him, offered a rebuke on Twitter. “There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect,” Kasich wrote. “Capt. Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family.”
Reed expressed some sympathy for those among his Republican colleagues who are dismayed with Trump but have avoided breaking with him.
“I think they’re in a very difficult position,” he said. “But I think with each passing day, the pressure grows to simply step up and say he doesn’t meet the threshold test of common sense and common decency that one would need for any major position.”
“But again, I’m going to let my colleagues deal with Mr. Trump,” he said. “I just feel compelled to speak. … Every day it gets worse. It’s consistently worse each time. Again, to a father or mother who lose a son, you don’t condemn and ridicule. You have to be compassionate.”
In a statement released late Saturday night, Trump called Humayun Khan “a hero” but again took issue with his father’s comments, while also saying Clinton should be “held accountable” for her role in making Middle East policy over the last decade and a half.
“While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things,” Trump said.Ted Nesi (email@example.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram