The first presidential debate of the year will take place on Monday night, and it should come as no surprise that the GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump, chose a handful of controversial guests to bring along to the event. One of Trump's debate guests is Karen Vaughn, a Gold Star mother, and Monday's debate certainly is not the first time Vaughn has made headlines or has been perceived as controversial over the last few years.
Vaughn's son, Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. Aaron had previously served in Iraq, as well. Understandably, after her son's death, Vaughn — along with her husband, Billy Vaughn — made it their mission to speak out about the importance of the men and women who serve in the military. Vaughn gives speeches at high schools across the country about patriotism andoften appears on Fox News, and her husband, Billy, wrote, Betrayed, a book about their son's death.
Not only is Vaughn a very vocal Trump supporter — she spoke at the Republican National Convention in July — but the Gold Star mother was also heavily involved in one of the GOP candidate's largest controversies: the response to Khizr Khan's speech at the Democratic National Convention. She was very quick to defend Trump on this topic, one that is considered one of his most taboo.
After fellow Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan appeared at the DNC in July, and were subsequently insulted (numerous times) by Trump, Vaughn weighed in claiming that the Khan's shouldn't receive special treatment just because they're a Gold Star family:
So they’re offended. Okay. The whole nation doesn’t need to weigh in. They’re just one family. Families get offended all the time and one thing that I like to say is that, because I’m a Gold Star mother, I don’t think that gives me special privilege. I don’t think that means people need to bow down in my presence. And I don’t think if I say something really horrible about somebody that they don’t have a right to respond.
That being said, The Palm Beach Post reported that Vaughn also said that the Khans do deserve "the free speech their son died for."
As Vaughn made clear, she believed that Khan's accusations against Trump — which included the Gold Star father asking if the GOP candidate has ever even read the Constitution — were too harsh.
However, long before the Khans gave a speech at the DNC, Politico reported that Vaughn made headlines when she wrote an open letter to President Obama suggesting that he resign. She wrote him in 2014, saying:
As you bumble about in your golf cart, slapping on a happy face and fist-pounding your buddies, your cowardly lack of leadership has left a gaping hole — not only in America’s security — but the security of the entire globe. Please vacate the people’s house and allow a man or woman of courage and substance to seize the reigns of this out-of-control thug-fest and regain the balance we, America, have provided throughout our great history.
Considering that Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is running on a campaign closely tied to continuing the legacy of President Obama's years in office, it's not surprising that Trump has chosen Vaughn as a debate guest —she's staunchly anti-Obama, and Trump's campaign is built on refuting the last eight years.