Donald Trump on Sunday hit out at the father of a fallen Pakistani-origin Muslim American soldier over remarks that he has "sacrificed nothing" for the country as the Republican presidential nominee mocked the mother for keeping silent, triggering a bipartisan backlash.
The reality TV star said he created thousands of jobs and "made a lot of sacrifices" in response to an impassioned speech by Army Capt. Humayun Khan's father Khizr Khan at last week's Democratic National Convention.
The 70-year-old real estate tycoon known for making controversial statements, however, drew sharp criticism from different quarters, including from his own party, when he questioned whether Mr. Khan's wife was even "allowed" to speak, both for attacking a mourning mother and because many considered them racist and anti-Muslim.
"Who wrote that? Did [Democratic rival] Hillary [Clinton]’s script writers write it?" Mr. Trump said in an interview with ABC News. "I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard."
Mr. Khizr Khan, in a moving tribute to his son at the Convention in Philadelphia while posthumously receiving a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, stunned a national audience with a speech directly confronting Mr. Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the US.
He asked Mr. Trump to "go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America".
"You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one."
Mr. Trump said: "I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. Sure those are sacrifices.
"I think my popularity with the vets is through the roof."
Responding to a question, Mr. Trump alleged that Mr. Khan’s wife Ghazala, who was standing besides him wearing a headscarf during the speech, was not allowed to speak.
"His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, may be 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," he said.
His remarks gathered storm as some Republicans also rounded on their candidate, with Ohio Governor John Kasich, a former rival to Mr Trump for the Republican nomination, tweeting: “There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honour and respect.”
Mr. Trump later sought to tone down the remarks, issuing a statement in which he called Humayun "a hero".
Ms. Clinton in a statement said Captain Khan and his family “represent the best of America, and we salute them".
"This is a time for all Americans to stand with the Khans, and with all the families whose children have died in service to our country. And this is a time to honour the sacrifice of Captain Khan and all the fallen," she said.