(CNN)Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to back off his claim that Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American US Army captain who was killed in the Iraq War in 2004, would still be alive had he been president at the time.
“Had I been president, Captain Khan would be alive today. We wouldn’t have been in this horrible, horrible mistake, the war in Iraq,” Trump said in an interview Wednesday with ABC News, in which he again falsely insisted that he was “opposed to the war in Iraq right from the beginning.”
Khizr Khan, the father of the deceased US Army officer, called Trump’s remark about his dead son “cruel” in a separate ABC News interview.
Trump’s remarks come nearly three months after the real estate mogul first escalated a feud with the parents of the slain US Army officer after they criticized him at the Democratic National Convention. Trump suggested Khan’s mother had not been “allowed” to speak and said the parents had “no right” to criticize him.
Trump’s decision to repeat the statement flies in the face of his public statements of support for the Iraq War before and immediately after it started.
Trump offered lukewarm support for the Iraq War just a month before Congress voted to authorize military force, telling radio host Howard Stern, “Yeah, I guess so,” when asked if he supported the war. And he also said the war “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint” in an interview with Fox News the day after US troops invaded Iraq.
Trump’s full-throated opposition to the war didn’t come until August 2004 — one year and five months after the war started — in an interview Trump has repeatedly cited on the campaign trail to argue he opposed the war from the start.
“This is the most cruel thing you can say to grieving parents, that if I was there this would not have happened,” Khizr Khan told ABC News Wednesday in response to Trump’s comments. “There’s no sincerity in those remarks … This is one character that a leader must have to be the leader of a great country, to be the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the United States: empathy. And this person totally lacks that.”
After Trump claimed in the second presidential debate that Humayun Khan would still be alive had he been president, Khizr Khan said on CNN that he “was saddened all over again.”
On Wednesday, Khan hit the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton in Virginia, where he met with military families and veterans.