Sen. Marco Rubio has become the latest Republican to rebuff Donald Trump over comments about Capt. Humayun Khan's parents but, like others, he did not withdraw his support for the GOP presidential nominee.
"I think his parents are heroes and they have a First Amendment right to speak out on their politics, as all Americans do. Their son died for the Constitution, and I honor that," the Florida Republican, a former Trump rival, said Monday in Clearwater, Florida.
Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun was killed by a car bomb in 2004 while serving in Iraq, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, where he criticized Trump for his invective against Muslims and asked if he had ever read the U.S. Constitution.
In what's become a widely ridiculed statement, Trump said over the weekend, "Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things."
The real estate mogul also questioned why Khan's wife, Ghazala Khan, remained silent on stage in Philadelphia, suggesting she wasn't allowed to speak because of her Muslim faith.
But as with other Republicans, Rubio's repudiation of Trump's comments came without him withdrawing support for the Republican nominee's White House bid.
Earlier in the day, Arizona Sen. John McCain issued a blistering critique of Trump as did the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin also rejected Trump's comments but did not take back their support for his campaign for president.
According to a transcript circulated by his office, Rubio said that on the broader question of Muslim immigration to the United States, the government should know exactly who is entering the country.
"We have Americans who are Muslims who are patriotic and love this country, as evidenced by the Khan family. We also know that there are parts of this world, where there are terrorists that are trying to get into the United States, and it's not that we don’t want to allow people in, it's that in many cases we can’t because we don’t have a way to vet them," the senator said.
Rubio spoke of falsified passports from Syria that made it difficult to assess the backgrounds of people seeking to enter the country.
Before Rubio's comments were circulated to members of the media, Democratic challenger Rep. Patrick Murphy said Rubio would show he "does not have the courage" to be a senator if he does not step back from supporting Trump.
"The same day Donald Trump disparaged parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, Marco Rubio stood up and said that we need to get Trump elected as our next president," said Murphy, one of two candidates running in the Democratic Senate primary. "Capt. Khan was a hero and his brave parents deserve unflinching gratitude for their sacrifice. Instead, they were viciously attacked by Donald Trump, a bully who has put personal profit before serving our country at every opportunity."