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Gold Star families demand Trump apologize for insensitivity


Khizr Khan, father of deceased Muslim-American soldier Capt. Humayun Khan, made an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention.

(Alex Wong)


Monday, August 1, 2016, 7:37 AM

Bereaved mother Celeste Zappala joined nearly a dozen Gold Star families demanding an apology from “master huckster” Donald Trump for controversial remarks aimed at the parents of slain U.S. Marine Capt. Humayun Khan.

Zappala, who also lost her son in Iraq, understood Ghazala Khan’s somber silence at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday and later, said she thought it “unconscionably cruel” for Trump to question why she would not speak before Hillary Clinton’s nomination.

“If a Gold Star family has something to say, you just say ‘Thank you,’” Zappala told the Daily News. “You don’t jump on them and criticize them.”

Zappala’s son Sgt. Sherwood Baker — a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard — died in April 2004 in a Baghdad explosion. Khan’s son Humayun was killed two months later in a suicide car bombing.

Trump attacks parents of Muslim-American war hero

Celeste Zappala carries a photograph of her son Sherwood Baker, who was killed while serving in Iraq.

Celeste Zappala carries a photograph of her son Sherwood Baker, who was killed while serving in Iraq.

(Warga, Craig)

A joint-letter published overnight through VoteVets was signed by family members of 11 servicemembers who were killed in Iraq, including 1st Lt. Neil Santoriello, Private 1st Class Steven Sirko, 2nd Lt. Christopher Loudon, Naval Corpsman 3rd Class John House, Cpl. Seamus Davey, 2nd Lt. Seth Dvorin, Sgt. Alessandro Carbonaro, 1st Lt. Ken Ballard and Sgt. Daniel Torres.

The letter also featured another signature from the family of Col. Norman Eaton, who was killed during the Vietnam War.

“Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us,” the open letter states. “When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.”

In the four days that have followed Khizr Khan’s emotional speech in Philadelphia, Trump claimed Khan “viciously attacked” him during the improvised address and his vice presidential pick and campaign staff have tried dodging questions on the Khan family by doubling down on Muslim migrant bans.

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Former Trump adviser Roger Stone joined the attacks on Khan, suggesting the Pakistani-born lawyer is an “agent” for the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group.

“Mr. Khan (is) more than an aggrieved father of a Muslim son — he’s a Muslim Brotherhood agent helping Hillary,” Stone tweeted late Sunday, linking to a website dedicated to conspiracy theories.

Stone issued his tweet when Trump’s VP pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, tried backpedaling from his candidate’s remarks.

Zappala believes Trump’s latest controversy would have dissolved quickly had the Republican nominee not spoken out against the family. But the presidential hopeful’s spate of comments have only become increasingly volatile as he insulted Khan on Twitter for doing television interviews.

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Khan, in an interview on Sunday, said Trump had a “black soul.”

“Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

His response lacked the apology Zappala and other Gold Star families had sought.

“What else could this man say, who else must be trashed before he’s no longer taken seriously as a potential leader of this country?” Zappala wondered

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She also likened Trump’s verbal behavior to a “drunk uncle.”

“He’s a master huckster. He just says whatever he wants to say in order to defend himself,” Zappala added. “That’s what he does and I think he’s worse than your drunk uncle.”

The letter signed by Zappala was organized by Karen Meredith, one of several mothers who have actively protested war since learning of their sons’ deaths while serving overseas in the Middle East.

Donald Trump has become increasingly volatile in attacking the Khans.

Donald Trump has become increasingly volatile in attacking the Khans.

(Brennan Linsley/AP)

Zappala, the Gold Star Families for Peace co-founder, joined anti-war activists outside the George W. Bush ranch in Crawford for several weeks in 2005 to protest a war she believed was sparked without cause.

She joined high-profile protester Cindy Sheehan outside his property in Texas, often pressing the former president for comment, but he never once responded to the protesters.

“As angry as we were with Bush, he did not insult us. He did not trash or belittle us,” Zappala added.

“I have way more respect for the Bush family than I do for (Trump),” she said.

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