Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump on Tuesday courted controversy when he said receiving a Purple Heart from a US military veteran was "much easier" than being awarded the medal given to those wounded in combat.
The statement immediately started trending on Twitter, with some users mocking the billionaire real estate mogul for accepting the honor -- awarded by sitting US presidents -- while on the campaign trail.
The comments also come as Trump is locked in a war of words with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004, after the father, Khizr Khan, addressed the Democratic National Convention and said Trump has "sacrificed nothing" for the country.
On Tuesday, Trump told supporters in Ashburn, Virginia that the veteran, whom he identified as lieutenant colonel Louis Dorfman, had presented him with the cherished medal.
He said he asked the man: "'Is that like the real one or is that a copy?'" "And he said 'That's my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you,'" Trump said as the crowd applauded. "I always wanted to get the Purple Heart," Trump added. "This was much easier." Trump has never served in the military, and he described receiving the Purple Heart as "an honor."
Dorfman, who appeared to be elderly, appeared on stage briefly with Trump to chants of "USA! USA!" But the veteran did not address the crowd.
Hillary Clinton, anointed the Democratic presidential nominee at last week's convention, jumped on Trump's remarks. "This from a man who says he's 'sacrificed' for our country," Clinton posted on Twitter minutes after Trump's Purple Heart comment. On Monday, The New York Times reported that Trump had received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, several for his studies and one for bone spurs in his feet, which meant he was not called up to serve. Trump's provocative responses to the parents to Humayun Khan have angered fellow Republicans and infuriated veterans groups, which called Trump's behavior "repugnant" and offensive. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Trump was "unfit" to be the next president.