S.C. Democrats see an opportunity to go after the state’s top Republicans in the ongoing controversy around GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments about the family of a U.S. soldier who died fighting in Iraq.
State Rep. Todd Rutherford, minority leader in the S.C. House, called Monday on Gov. Nikki Haley and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to pull their support from Trump after his comments about the family of fallen Army Capt. Humayun Khan.
“Our state is a proud military state with thousands of active duty and retired soldiers,” Rutherford said Monday. “Mr. Trump's attacks on our military, our soldiers, and the parents of those who made the ultimate sacrifice are reprehensible and un-American. Governor Haley and Lieutenant Governor McMaster should show true leadership and immediately withdraw their support.”
Humayun Khan’s father, Khizr Khan, denounced Trump at last week’s Democratic convention for his call for a temporary shutdown of Muslims, like his family, entering the United States.
Trump tweeted Monday: "Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same."
In an interview Sunday, Trump also noted the Army captain’s mother, Ghazala Khan, stood silently beside her husband at the convention podium. “She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say," Trump said.
Haley was one of several Republicans who pushed back against Trump’s comments.
“As a member of a military family, and the governor of a proud military state that has been recognized as the most patriotic, my heart and my unending thanks go out to the Khan family for their enormous sacrifice for our country,” Haley said in a statement. “As far as I’m concerned, they have the standing to say whatever they want in the political process and should not face criticism for it.”
Haley has a long, strained relationship with Trump.
In January, while delivering the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, Haley took a swipe at Trump by calling on voters to resist the “siren call of the angriest voices.”
McMaster, Trump’s most high-profile S.C. supporter, did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.
Other Republicans also chided Trump, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca.
“This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen,” Graham said. “There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics – that you don’t do – like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.
“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” South Carolina’s senior senator said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”