TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Top Florida Republicans are distancing themselves from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments about an American Muslim family whose son was killed in Iraq.
But so far, none of the top elected Republicans in the state have dropped their support of Trump, or even criticized him as sharply as some other Republicans have in the last few days.
Still there are signs of growing discomfort even among some of his most ardent supporters.
Right now it’s not clear if any prominent Florida Republicans plan to join him when Trump does a campaign swing through Florida on Wednesday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke at the Republican National Convention, is hosting events in the Panhandle including a meeting to discuss battling the Zika virus.
“It’s hard,” said Jeff Atwater, the state’s chief financial officer and one of three statewide elected officials on the Florida Cabinet. “Because I don’t appreciate this kind of tone, rhetoric and commentary that he’s offering.”
Trump has been feuding for days with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, a Muslim family whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004. At last week’s Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan criticized Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States and accused Trump of sacrificing “nothing and no one.”
In response, Trump said he was “viciously attacked” by Khizr Khan and implied that Ghazala Khan, the soldier’s mother, stood silently alongside her husband during the speech because, as a Muslim, she was restricted her from speaking. The comments have drawn rebukes from both Democrats and Republicans such as U.S. Sen. John McCain and the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization called them “out of bounds.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi, who endorsed Trump before the March presidential primary, called Capt. Khan an “American hero” and added: “Would I have ever said anything about his mother standing up their silent, not saying anything? Absolutely not.”
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam echoed Bondi’s comments about Khan and said “any comments to the contrary are dishonorable and abhorrent.”
The cautious reaction by some of Florida’s top GOP elected officials is a contrast to people such as former Gov. Jeb Bush, who has refused to endorse Trump.
Sally Bradshaw, a north Florida resident and one of Bush’s top political advisers, recently changed parties and said this week that she may vote for Hillary Clinton if the election is close.
Scott, who recently agreed to become chairman of a super PAC backing Trump, as well as all three Cabinet members said they still intend to vote for Trump. Atwater, citing the investigation into Clinton’s emails, said that Trump was the “better candidate.”
Scott, who served in the U.S. Navy, would not comment directly on Trump’s comments and instead said Tuesday that “I’m never going to agree with every candidate on what they are going to say.” He praised Trump as someone “who believes in our military.”
When asked if Trump should apologize, as Scott said: “You can talk to Donald Trump. I just can tell you from my standpoint I’m appreciate of everybody that served.”
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