JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) – Donald Trump met with six Gold Star families before a campaign rally in Jacksonville Wednesday night, and said from the stage that at least one continues to support him despite the continuing controversy over a feud he’s having with the Muslin family of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.
Khizr Khan, the father of a decorated Muslim Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004 lambasted the Republican presidential candidate during an address at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and Trump shot back by questioning why Khan’s wife, who was standing next to him at the podium, didn’t make any remarks of her own.
Trump implied in a series of Tweets that it was because she is Muslim and wasn’t allowed to speak.
The remarks didn’t just outrage the Khans, they created a firestorm within the ranks of GOP, that only got more intense this week after Trump said he was reluctant to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Arizona Sen. John McCain, both of whom face primaries Ryan’s as early as next week and both of whom publicly denounced the real estate mogul over his spat with the soldier’s family.
Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan was killed in Iraq by a vehicle filled with explosives. According to the Pentagon, Khan saved the lives of several other soldiers by urging them to stay back while he approached it.
After Trump criticized the Khans, nearly a dozen Gold Star families published a joint letter through the progressive nonprofit VoteVets.org website, demanding that Trump apologize for his comments.
Eleven of the families that signed the letter had sons that were killed in Iraq. One of the families that signed the letter was that of soldier who died in Vietnam.
“Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us,” the letter says. “When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.”
Trump has not apologized for his remarks. Trump’s meeting with the families of fallen soldiers in Jacksonville was his latest attempt to press on in the face of the controversy by suggested he’s still widely admired by military families.
On stage at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Trump said one of the men he met with handed him a contribution.
“He said, it’s more money than we can afford, but I want you to have it for your campaign,” Trump said.
The families were not identified, but the candidate then led the crowd in cheering for them.
He also showed off the Purple Heart he was given by a veteran in Virginia on Tuesday.
“He said, I want you to have it. You’re the one to lead the country, I want you to have this,” Trump said.
The crowd booed when Trump mentioned media coverage that the medal was a replica.
“It actually was his heart. It’s what it is. His Purple Heart,” Trump said, mentioning the man’s son revealed the medal’s authenticity.
Earlier in the day, Trump also tried to pour water on claims he’s tearing his party apart with his unreserved rhetoric and self-inflicted injuries.
He did so by declaring his support for former primary rival Marco Rubio’s senate re-election bid.
During the primaries, Trump portrayed Rubio as a light-weight, dismissively calling him “Little Marco.”
On Wednesday in Daytona Beach Trump said: “I endorsed Marco Rubio. He endorsed me. He’s doing well.”
But Trump didn’t reverse course in regard to his hesitation to endorse Ryan or McCain. Ryan has maintained that he’s unconcerned about the matter.
On Thursday, he brushed off Trump’s stance, he told “Jerry Bader Show” on WTAQ radio in Green Bay, Wis., that the only endorsement he cares about is from voters in his congressional district.
But he also says that Trump “has had a pretty strange run since the convention. You would think we should be focusing on Hillary Clinton and all of her deficiencies.”
Ryan says it’s “distressing” that that’s not what the conversation is about.
For his part, McCain, whose primary battle has been particularly bitter, said Wednesday that not only is he unconcerned about Trump’s non-endorsement, but
that he intends to continue support the nominee of the party, period.
Trump’s Florida rallies came as reports surfaced that the GOP wants to hold an intervention to get him back on track, and as a the latest Fox News poll finding that Democrat Hillary Clinton now holds a 10-point advantage over Trump, 49 percent to 39 percent.
But Trump maintained his biggest worry is the “rigged” electoral system.
Trump first raised concerns Monday after courts rejected tough voter ID rules put in place for the first time in a presidential election in states including North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.
The rulings cited a risk of disenfranchising the poor, minorities or young people who were less likely to have acceptable IDs — and who are more likely to vote Democratic.
“But our biggest obstacle is the press, they’re so dishonest,” he said. Trump then went on to say CNN’s News Day covered anti-Trump stories 200 times more than the Iran story, which he said was cited by the Media Research Center.
“You have to bull your way through the media,” Trump said as the crowd cheered.
He also took a shot at The New York Times, claiming the paper is failing and will be out of business “in the next three years.”
For the most part, Trump’s remarks were much the same as he has been delivering throughout his highly unusual campaign. He slammed Clinton on trade, and promised he had a plan to bring jobs back to the United States from overseas.
He also talked about the Brexit vote, how he got “zero credit” for predicting that British voters would decide to opt out of the European Union, and why they would want to leave the EU:
“It as because people don’t want to be forced to take all these people in” Trump said, pointing to Germany and France and calling them both a “complete disaster.”
The crowd booed when Trump said Hillary Clinton wanted to bring tens of thousands of people into the country.
“Not gonna happen, folks,” he said.
Later Trump added another thought that said volumes about where he sees himself with 96 days to go until election day.
“If you dislike me intensely, if you say “I would never in a milliion years vote for Donald Trump’, you have to, you have no choice,” Trump told the crowd.
While Trump was in Florida, his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was in Colorado, telling his audience that the GOP will weather the storms he’s currently embroiled in and will be elected the next president of the United States.
Speaking in Colorado Springs, Pence said that despite the best efforts of the Democratic Party and the news media, “The next morning they turn on the television and there is Donald Trump, standing taller than before and fighting to make America great again.”
- Campaign-Finance Raid
- Ohio Warden On the Hook for Fatal Dog Attack