Donald Trump tried to downplay his comments lashing out at the parents of a slain Muslim soldier who brought delegates at the Democratic National Committee to their feet when he challenged the Republican nominee’s stance on immigration.
In an ABC interview set to air Sunday, Trump implied the soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, did not let his wife speak because she was not “allowed” to do so. Khan told reporters that his wife, who was standing by his side at the convention, didn’t speak because it was too painful. He also suggested they were controlled by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Khan’s 27-year-old son, a U.S. Army captain, died in a 2004 car bombing in Iraq. At the convention, Khan pulled out a dog-eared copy of the U.S. Constitution and questioned whether Trump had ever read the document, saying that Trump “consistently smears the character of Muslims.”
“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities,” he said, in one of the most powerful moments of the convention. “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
As fellow Republicans amped up their criticism of Trump, his campaign issued a statement late Saturday to “set the record straight” with a statement that Khan’s son was a “hero” and that the focus should be on the militants who killed him.
“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 in the statement.
Here’s the transcript of the interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don’t know if you saw this speech, but there was a man named Khizr Khan speaking at the Democratic Convention last night. His son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed serving in Iraq. And he had some very tough questions for you. He said you wouldn’t have even let his son in America.
TRUMP: He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that. I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, 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. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that. And personally, I watched him. I wish him the best of luck.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What would you say to that father?
TRUMP: Well, I’d say we’ve had a lot of problems with radical Islamic terrorism. That’s what I’d say. We have a lot of problems, where you look at San Bernardino. You look at Orlando. You look at the World Trade Center. You look at so many different things. You look at what happened to the priest over the weekend in Paris, where his throat was cut, 85-year-old, beloved Catholic priest. You look at what happened in Nice, France, a couple of weeks ago. I’d say you’ve got to take a look at that, because something is going on. And it’s not good.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said you have sacrificed nothing and no one.
TRUMP: Well, that sounds – who wrote that? Did Hillary’s scriptwriters write it? Because everybody that went out there, we also had John Allen who failed with ISIS. I mean, he was a general, Allen, General Allen. He went out. And he was ranting and raving. And then I read a report. He was in there for a number of months. And he failed with ISIS.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw Hillary say last night, you don’t know more than the generals.
TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you, the generals aren’t doing so well right now. Now, I have a feeling it may be Obama’s fault. But if you look at ISIS…General McArthur and General Patton, they’re spinning in their graves. The generals certainly aren’t doing very well right now. And General Allen, after I saw he was on ranting and raving about me, who he never met, I checked up. Guess what. They weren’t so happy with him. He didn’t beat ISIS. He didn’t beat ISIS. He didn’t do even well with ISIS.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How would you answer that father? What sacrifice have you made for your country?
TRUMP: I think 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. I’ve done, I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are sacrifices?
TRUMP: Oh, sure. I think they’re sacrifices. I think when I can employ thousands and thousands of people, take care of their education, take care of so many things, even in military. I mean, I was very responsible, along with a group of people, for getting the Vietnam Memorial built in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for.
I raised, and I have raised, millions of dollars for the vets. I’m helping the vets a lot. I think my popularity with the vets is through the roof, far greater than hers. She’s done nothing. All she’s done is tell everybody that the vets are in good shape. They’re fine. And they’re not fine. People are waiting on line for seven days to see a doctor. She thinks it’s fine.