Iowa Senator Joni Ernst  speaks to a crowd of people during a Donald Trump rally in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Jordan Gale)
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst speaks to a crowd of people during a Donald Trump rally in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Jordan Gale)

Iowa Republicans break from Trump on Khan comments

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By Mitch McAndrew | mmcandrew@uiowa.edu 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is facing backlash from prominent Iowa Republicans over his response to Khizr Khan’s Thursday night speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Iowa’s two Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, who have both come out in support of Trump in the past, distanced themselves over the businessman’s comments on Monday.

In a pair of issued statements, Ernst and Grassley praised Khan, the father of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 and posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.

“Mr. Trump’s comments are not in line with my own beliefs about how the members of the military and their families should be treated, and respect for the people who serve our country is something both presidential campaigns could use more of,” Grassley said in the statement.

Grassley also said he was proud to be “friends with a family of Muslim faith from Cedar Falls” whose son is an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces.

RELATED: Iowa GOP gives Trump warm welcome 

Ernst, herself an Iraq war veteran, also commended Capt. Khan and his family for their sacrifice, but she did not specifically address Trump’s comments.

“We as a nation are incredibly grateful to Captain Khan’s service and ultimate sacrifice – as well as the sacrifices of his parents – to keep us safe and free. We must always honor our veterans, and their families; many have endured far more than we can ever imagine, and we must always remember to express our gratitude,” Ernst’s statement said.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad speaks to a crowd of people during a Donald Trump rally in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Jordan Gale)

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad speaks to a crowd of people during a Donald Trump rally in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Jordan Gale)

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad called Trump’s comments a “mistake” on Monday.

“I just think that anyone that has died in the service of our country is a hero. And I think that was a mistake,” Branstad told the Des Moines Register on Monday. “I believe the focus needs to be on the differences that he has with Hillary Clinton in terms of policies.”

Both Branstad and Ernst spoke at Trump’s Thursday night rallies in Cedar Rapids and Davenport last week, and Branstad said in Cedar Rapids that he planned on stumping for Trump “as much as possible” in the months running up to the November 8.

The Republican Party of Iowa did not respond to a request for comment.

In a emotionally-charged convention speech delivered with his wife, Ghazala, by his side, Khan berated Trump for the GOP nominee’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration and accused him of sacrificing “nothing and no one” for the U.S.

Trump responded in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos by claiming his sacrifices included creating “tens of thousands” of jobs and building “great structures.”

He also suggested that Khan had forbidden his wife to speak during the speech.

“She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” he said.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Ghazala Khan wrote that her husband asked her to speak at the convention, but that it was too emotionally distressing for her.

“Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?” she wrote.

Facing widespread criticism over his comments, Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to defend himself by going after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s Iraq war vote and the media.

Follow The Daily Iowan’s Ethics and Politics Initiative (@DIpolitics) and politics editor Mitch McAndrew (@MitchieMac) as swing state Iowa’s campaign trail heats up