News & Politics

Khizr Khan on Trump’s Reported Comments About War Dead: “He’s a Coward, and I Have no Hesitation in Saying That Loudly”

"The more I read, the more familiar it sounded," the Gold Star father says.

Khizr Khan in 2018. Photograph by Flickr user Lorie Shaull.

On Thursday evening, the Atlantic published a blockbuster article that quoted numerous sources as saying President Trump believes America’s war dead are “losers” and “suckers.” Other outlets—even Fox News—were able to corroborate the story, which Trump and his administration have nevertheless denied hotly.

Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in action in 2004, has been here before: Trump, as a candidate, demeaned the Khans and their family’s sacrifice after Khan criticized his immigration proposals at the 2016 DNC. Washingtonian phoned Khan, who works as a lawyer in Charlottesville, for his thoughts on this latest episode. Here are some highlights of our conversation:

• Khan said, “The more I read, the more familiar it sounded.” He continued:

In this article he’s defined so correctly. That is him. That is exactly him. For us, because we’ve been at the front line of receiving that nonsense since 2015, and then observing his disrespect toward John McCain and Sgt. La David Johnson, who died in Africa, and his misbehavior and disrespect to Sgt. La David’s wife and family—so it all came together in the sense that that is him.

• On what the reports say about Trump as a person:

As it is said, words are a window into our soul. So when Trump calls anyone who places their life in service of others a loser, we understand his soul. And by his accounting, self-sacrifice doesn’t make sense. According to Trump, the winners in life are those who put themselves before all and the losers are those who don’t. His life is a testament to selfishness. That’s all he knows.

• On Trump’s understanding of service:

He is incapable of understanding service, valor, and courage. These words don’t make any sense to him. And his soul cannot conceive what integrity is. He’s a coward, and I have no hesitation in saying that loudly.

• What he learned from his son’s death:

Humayun lived his life full of kindness and love, and he demonstrated that even to the last moment of his life. I remember the last conversation with him, on Mother’s Day when he called, and his mother was always worried. She told him, “Don’t be a hero. I want you to be safe and come back safely.” In his answer, look at the difference. His answer was, “Mother, I don’t want you to worry. These men and women are under my command. I am responsible for their well being. And I will not hesitate to do anything whatever it takes to protect them to keep them safe and bring them safely home with me.”

These are not just words, but that is how our men and women in uniform and our members of intelligence, members of FBI, CIA, and Department of Justice, those in government service live by, and these are selfless souls. That is selflessness so beyond Donald Trump’s soul that he cannot conceive of a world where one person values someone else more than themselves.


Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.