After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lashed out against the parents of a Muslim American war hero, many top Republicans are continuing to support him as their party’s standard-bearer while denouncing his offensive remarks.
By Monday, some of the most forceful condemnations came from a chorus of GOP senators, all of whom are notably in tight re-election races this year and have walked a tightrope between supporting Trump as their nominee and distancing themselves from his offensive rhetoric.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday slammed Trump for defaming Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son Humayun was killed while serving in Iraq. Trump attacked them after Khizr Khan gave a powerful address against the real estate mogul’s divisiveness and Islamophobia at last week’s Democratic National Convention. At one point, Trump suggested that Ghazala Khan did not speak alongside her husband because she was forbidden from doing so by her religion.
“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party. While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us,” McCain said in a statement.
The five-term senator narrowly leads his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. His lengthy statement followed similar condemnations from several of his Senate colleagues, who also face difficult re-election challenges this year.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who is running neck and neck with New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), said that she was “appalled that Donald Trump would disparage [the Khans] and that he had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) lauded the Khans for their “greatest possible sacrifice for our country,” and recommended that Trump “focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton.”
A spokesperson for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) explained that Portman “does not agree with Donald Trump’s remarks and believes that Captain Khan was an American hero who gave his life for his country.”
And similar statements of support for the Khans came from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), with Toomey calling Trump’s comments “inappropriate.”
All of them except Toomey have backed Trump, and so far, none of them have rescinded their endorsements. But they have repeatedly distanced themselves from the real estate mogul every time he sparks controversy.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who also is locked in a tight re-election battle, decided enough was enough in June, when Trump launched racist attacks against a federal judge overseeing a case against Trump’s controversial for-profit university. Kirk then pulled his endorsement.
“I think we should send a strong message that racism and bigotry are not going to be tolerated in the party of Lincoln,” he said.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.