WASHINGTON ― In what has become a familiar pattern, GOP leaders on Sunday denounced Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest round of offensive remarks. But they continue to support his campaign.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) both issued standard statements condemning Trump’s attacks against Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American war hero killed in Iraq.
Khizr’s powerful speech against Trump’s Islamophobia was one of the highlights of last week’s Democratic National Convention. When he was asked to respond over the weekend, Trump went after Ghazala Khan, implying that she was not allowed to speak alongside her husband because of her religion. In reality, she did not speak because she is still too grief-stricken over her son’s death, she said.
On Sunday, both GOP leaders expressed their support for the Khans and the sacrifices of Muslim American soldiers and reiterated their opposition to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration.
But in condemning Trump’s platform, neither mentioned the candidate by name.
Here is Ryan’s statement:
America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it. Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice—and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan—should always be honored. Period.
And McConnell’s statement:
Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services. And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.
Many top Republicans backing Trump have been down this road before. Time after time, when the real estate mogul launched offensive attacks, they have responded by distancing themselves from his divisive rhetoric despite remaining committed to his candidacy.
Last month, when Trump claimed that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against him in a case involving Trump’s fraudulent for-profit university because Curiel is “of Mexican heritage,” a slew of GOP lawmakers rushed to denounce Trump’s racism.
Ryan and McConnell were among them. Both expressed concerns about Trump’s statements, arguing that they were offensive and ill-advised, but seemed to suggest that they were just a mistake.
“My advice to our nominee would be to start talking about the issues that the American people care about, and to start doing it now,” McConnell said. “In addition to that, it’s time to quit attacking various people that you competed with, or various minority groups in the country, and get on message.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hammered McConnell and Ryan on Sunday for their “cowardice,” calling on both to rescind their endorsements of Trump.
“Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan approvingly spoke at Donald Trump’s convention, endorsed Donald Trump for president and believe he is mentally fit to sit in the Oval Office. Occasional statements that do nothing to repudiate Donald Trump’s words and actions are spineless. Anything short of revoking their endorsements is cowardice,” he said in a statement.
“This shouldn’t be hard. Donald Trump is a sexist and racist man who insults Gold Star parents, stokes fear of Muslims and sows hatred of Latinos. He should not be president and Republican leaders have a moral responsibility to say so.”
On Friday, following his emotional plea at the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan himself implored Ryan and McConnell to reassess their support of Trump.
“There is so much at stake, and I appeal to both of these leaders, this is the time,” he said. “There comes a time in the history of a nation where an ethical, moral stand has to be taken regardless of the political costs. The only reason they’re not repudiating his behavior, his threat to our democracy, our decency, our foundation, is just because of political consequences.”
But it seems that appeal has fallen on deaf ears.
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.