During the final night of the Democratic Convention, a Pakistani American named Khizr Khan gave a moving tribute to his son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004. He ended the speech with sharp criticism of Republican Nominee Donald Trump.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have even been in America,” Khan said of his son. “He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?”
The moment led to a public fight between the Khan family and Donald Trump, which would become a flashpoint in Trump’s campaign. On Oct. 27, Khizr Khan made his way to Norfolk, where he met with Shaun Brown, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District.
Brown said she had the opportunity to meet with Khan while he was visiting the city and after their meeting, she posted a photo of Khan to her Facebook page.
“It was an honor to meet today in Norfolk with Mr. Khizr Khan, whose son, Humayun, died in Iraq saving his unit from a suicide bomber,” she wrote. “Mr. Khan electrified the Democratic National Convention when he stood up to Donald Trump, in the process, showing what it truly means to be an American.”
Just hours after the post went live, commenters on Facebook and Twitter criticized Brown’s choice to meet with Khan.
The conversation quickly devolved into criticism not of Brown’s decisions or policies, but of her race.
One commenter Tweeted out an image of Aunt Jemima with Brown’s Twitter handle as the tagline.
— Frank Black (@frankblack992) November 2, 2016
While Brown noted that several of the comments came from supporters of her opponent, Republican Scott Taylor, Taylor was quick to condemn such behavior.
“I disavow any comments from anyone that are racist,” he said. “This campaign’s been nothing but positive.”
Scott Weldon, Taylor’s campaign manager, added that the comments were in no way indicative of the type of campaign they are running.
“There’s nothing coming from our campaign that’s remotely ugly,” Weldon said. “We’re not engaging in anything negative.”
Brown, on the other hand, said she wished such rhetoric had never become a part of the congressional race.
“My hope was that we could get through our race,” Brown said. “But we haven’t and it’s gotten ugly.”