Conservative Media Defend Donald Trump's Debunked 9/11 Claim

Conservative Media Defend Donald Trump's Debunked 9/11 Claim

››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

Right-wing media are attempting to bolster Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's widely debunked claim that Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11.

Donald Trump Doubles Down On Claim That Thousands Of American Muslims Cheered On September 11

Donald Trump Repeats Claim That Thousands Of Muslims Celebrated The September 11 Attacks. At a December 1 New Hampshire event, Donald Trump doubled down on his claim that he witnessed thousands of Muslims celebrating the attacks on September 11 in New Jersey. A Trump campaign advisor pointed to clips from New York's WCBS and MTV in 2001 as evidence, but according to CBS News neither source "shows a large celebration" like Trump had claimed:

At a nighttime rally in New Hampshire, Trump dismissed the rest of the GOP pack and repeated his debunked claim that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I think they're weak, generally. You want to know the truth but I won't say that," he said. "I saw it and a lot of people saw it."

As proof, he cited a newspaper article, and his campaign adviser cited clips from New York station WCBS and MTV in 2001 - neither of which showed a large celebration.

"There has been no jubilee in the streets, nobody thinking this is a great or glorious idea," a local official said in the MTV interview. [CBSNews.com, 12/2/15]

Conservative Media Defend Trump's Claim

Fox's Eric Bolling: "I Know There Were Muslims" In The U.S. "Who Were Happy That The World Trade Center Came Down." On the December 1 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling claimed that he "remember[ed] specifically the news reports about Jersey City. They said people were on the roofs watching the planes fly in" on September 11. Bolling added, "I know there were Muslims and Muslim groups in the United States who were happy that the World Trade Center came down":

ERIC BOLLING: So I remember this day, and I stood on the New York side and I watched the plane fly into the tower. I remember the next day and I remember the news reports and I remember specifically the news reports about Jersey City. They said people were on the roofs watching the planes fly in. They were tipped off prior to the thing. And this was a narrative that was going on. I remember video, I don't remember if it was Pakistan or Paterson. But there was also a lot of talk. Now the reason why I know this, is cause I was in the building in 1993 when it was blown up by Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was the "Blind Sheikh," who devised the plan to blow up the World Trade Center in '93. It didn't work. But he was the Jersey City imam. And I remember there were claims that his group, his whole mosque,was cheering the planes actually finally doing what he tried to do in 1993. Whether or not it was a thousand, thousands, a few hundred, a handful? Who cares?

[...]

BOLLING: It doesn't really matter to me, because I know there were Muslims and Muslim groups who were happy that the World Trade Center came down and they were in the United States when that happened. [Fox News, The Five, 12/1/15]

Fox Regular Rudy Giuliani: I Have A "Distinct Recollection Of Having Reported To Me ... A Number Of Incidents." On the December 1 edition of Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto, frequent Fox guest and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, "I have no recollection of thousands. I do have a distant recollection of having reported to me by the police a number of incidents" of American Muslims celebrating the September 11 attacks:

NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): Let me switch gears if you don't mind because your name has come up, as to Donald Trump and these allegations that there were Muslims dancing and happily celebrating the fall of the towers on 9/11. A lot of people say that never happened. Chris Christie said he doesn't recall it. What's the deal?

RUDY GIULIANI: I think the issue here is the number. The thousand people. I have no recollection of thousands. I do have distinct recollection of having reported to me by the police a number of incidents, several --

CAVUTO: Certainly going on over the world. I remember that.

GIULIANI: Let's say it was a period of time where there were a lot of things going on so my recollection is not going to be great.

CAVUTO: He was mentioning New Jersey.

[...]

CAVUTO: So the only mistake only mistake that Trump might have made is assigning a number to it. I sort of remember covering it at the time that there were celebrations around the world, particularly in the Middle East --

GIULIANI: And there were -- and I can tell you reported to me -- I didn't see them. Could be wrong.

CAVUTO: Understood. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 12/1/15]

Laura Ingraham: "There Were Individuals In The United States, Muslim Background, Who Were Celebrating" On The September 11 Attacks. On the December 1 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham asserted that "individuals in the United States" of "Muslim background ... were celebrating" the September 11 attacks:

LAURA INGRAHAM: Well that was yesterday, saying that the Muslims' celebrations didn't happen. That's not what I was talking about, but [Chris Christie] said it didn't happen, Chris Christie contradicts Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani said it actually did happen, so those are the comments that we're hearing on CNN today. But going getting into the shooting match with Trump, on whether Muslims were on a rooftop or not? I just don't think that's helpful. I think it, he's at his best and his strongest when, as he was on Morning Joe, focused on jobs, the economy, climate change, ISIS, the war on terror, leading as -- with the experience as a former prosecutor, I thought all of that was very strong. I think most people understand we do have a radicalization problem around the world with Islam, that's beyond obvious. And there were individuals in the United States, Muslim background, who were celebrating, as I read from that Michigan Court of Appeals decision yesterday. Which confirmed in, you know one Ford Motor company workplace there were Muslims celebrating. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 12/1/15]

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: There's An "Element Of Truth To What Trump Is Saying." On the November 25 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough said the media was "overreact[ing]" to Trump's claim and that "there is one element of truth to what Trump is saying":

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You know what, there is one element of truth to what Trump's saying that is true and funny because the poor Washington Post reporter writes this. At the time. And now he is really, really backing up, going 'Oh I don't know what I saw.' Listen, if he didn't see it he wouldn't have put it in the newspaper. So this is what people always do. They overreact to Donald Trump's overreaction and in overreacting to Donald Trump's overreaction, whether it was a joke he said about McCain or whether it was, remember it was a list of things every Sunday. The mainstream media overreact and give him a kernel of truth to hold on. Now Willie, everybody's saying oh, nobody ever danced on roof tops. There's a Washington Post article that says they did. Just say he's exaggerating.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: But the point is though, it's in The Washington Post, just say they investigated it and it may have been a handful of people and Trump is exaggerating it to a thousand people. Now everybody is going around, going 'Oh, it never happened.' Well, if it never happened, Willie, why did The Washington Post report on it? [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/25/15]

Rush Limbaugh: "Americans Are Well Aware That Muslims Were Cheering" The September 11 Attacks. On the November 23 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh defended Trump's claim, saying, "The Washington Post had a story about cheering Muslims in New Jersey" and that "Americans are well aware that Muslims were cheering" the attacks:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: I mean, this is the funny thing, they're fact-checking Trump, they're claiming Trump is making this up. Now Trump, if I have this right, Trump says that he saw tens of thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey, on 9/11. And the media promptly went into gear, and trying to prove that he's lying, and made it up. So they went in into every news archival database they could think of, to see if there were stories about this. And they couldn't find any, so they've concluded that Trump was lying. One of the fact-checkers is a guy that works at The Washington Post, and for some reason he didn't check his own paper's archives, because The Washington Post had a story about cheering Muslims in New Jersey on 9/11. The difference is it wasn't thousands, the story did not say it was thousands. But Trump is standing by it.

[....]

LIMBAUGH: And, so here comes Trump saying that he saw Muslims cheer on 9/11, he adds tens or thousands there. The bottom line is that a lot of Americans are well aware that Muslims were cheering. Maybe not in New Jersey in great numbers, but around the world they were because we saw the video. On 9/11 and in the aftermath, we saw video on the news, unquote of Muslims all over the world, in certain places, cheering. So, regardless the specific details, the American people and a lot of Trump supporters know, I mean it was militant Islamists who conducted 9/11, it's militant Islamists that make up ISIS. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/23/15]

Breitbart News: "Thanks To Donald Trump " We Know That "Some Number Of Muslims Did In Fact Celebrate The Collapse Of The Twin Towers." In a December 1 article, Breitbart News editor-at-large John Nolte argued that Donald Trump "was not only right on this point, but by pressing the matter he has forced the DC Media to uncover a truth they did not want to tell" about American Muslims celebrating the September 11 terrorist attacks. Nolte wrote that at least nine "contemporaneous reports and eyewitnesses prove once and for all that some number of Muslims did in fact celebrate the collapse of the Twin Towers":

There is nothing yet that validates Donald Trump's claim that on that terrible September morning "thousands and thousands" of American Muslims cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center. At worst, though, the Republican frontrunner is guilty of exaggerating. The DC Media, however, has been exposed (once again) as bald-faced liars who engaged in a 14 year cover-up.

Contemporaneous reports and eyewitnesses prove once and for all that some number of Muslims did in fact celebrate the collapse of the Twin Towers. Trump was not only right on this point, but by pressing the matter he has forced the DC Media to uncover a truth they did not want to tell.

[...]

Between the contemporaneous reports ... and these eyewitnesses that have come out in the wake of the DC Media attempting to bury Trump, there is now no question that some number of American Muslims celebrated 9/11.

It happened.

And for 14 years the DC Media covered this crucially important story up.

And now, thanks to Donald Trump, we know the truth.

Trump appears to have exaggerated.

The DC Media, however, lied for 14 years and continues to lie today. [Breitbart News, 12/1/15]

Trump's Claim Has Been Widely Debunked

NY Times: NJ Attorney General In 2001 "Found The Reports To Be Bogus," Said It "Never Happened." The New York Times reported that John J. Farmer, the New Jersey attorney general at the time of the attacks, "ordered an investigation that very day and found the reports to be bogus." Farmer, who later served as senior counsel to the September 11 commission, said of the rumor that Muslims were celebrating in New Jersey, "False report. Never happened":

How alarmed were New Jersey officials by reports of Muslims dancing in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson on Sept. 11, 2001, to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center?

They feared riots would break out and were ready to send in the National Guard and the State Police to preserve order.

But John J. Farmer Jr., then the New Jersey attorney general and the state's chief law enforcement officer, said on Tuesday that he ordered an investigation that very day and found the reports to be bogus, more wild stories born in the stricken hours after the attacks.

[...]

Reporters were unable to find any evidence for his story, but Mr. Trump stuck with it in a television interview on Sunday. "It did happen," he said. "I saw it. It was on television."

Few people, if any, could address the circumstances more definitively than Mr. Farmer, who went on to serve as senior counsel to the Sept. 11 commission.

[...]

And then there was the wisp of a story that Mr. Farmer said was most disturbing of all: "That Muslims were dancing on the rooftops and in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson."

Indeed, pockets of radical Islamists had set up in Jersey City in the past. The 1993 World Trade Center bombers rented a van and stored chemicals and fertilizers in that city.

Open jubilation at the mass death, Mr. Farmer said, might quickly be followed by rioting and more deaths. "If true, we would have had to mobilize the State Police and National Guard and locked the place down," he said.

"We followed up on that report instantly because of its implications," he added. "The word came back quickly from Jersey City, later from Paterson. False report. Never happened." [The New York Times, 11/24/15]

Wash. Post Fact Checker Called The Claim "Another Case Of Trump's Overactive Imagination." In a November 22 fact check, The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler wrote that "an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing" showing American Muslims celebrating the September 11 attacks, and that Trump "must provide real evidence or else issue an apology":

Trump says that he saw this with his own eyes on television and that it was well covered. But an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing. There were some reports of celebrations overseas, in Muslim countries, but nothing that we can find involving the Arab populations of New Jersey except for unconfirmed reports. (Some conspiracy Web sites cite a column by controversial blogger and commentator Debbie Schlussel, who is highly critical of Muslims, that makes a reference to an MTV broadcast of protests and riots in Paterson, N.J.; this claim has never been authenticated.) As the Newark Star-Ledger put it in an article on Sept. 18, 2001, "rumors of rooftop celebrations of the attack by Muslims here proved unfounded."

[...]

This appears to be another case of Trump's overactive imagination, much like his baseless claim that the George W. Bush White House tried to "silence" his Iraq war opposition in 2003. We looked and looked -- and could find absolutely no evidence to support his claim.

But that was merely a matter of self-aggrandizement, whereas now Trump has defamed the Muslim communities of New Jersey. He cannot simply assert something so damning; he must provide some real evidence or else issue an apology. [The Washington Post, 11/22/15]

Politifact: Trump's Story "Flies In The Face Of All The Evidence We Could Find." In a November 22 fact check, Politifact reported that "an exhaustive search of newspaper and television transcripts" found no evidence to back up Trump's claim. They added that his story "defies basic logic" and "flies in the face of all the evidence we could find":

We conducted an exhaustive search of newspaper and television transcripts on LexisNexis, looking for reports from September 2001 through December 2001 that made any mention of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks.

Regarding Jersey City, which Trump mentioned specifically, we found two uncorroborated and unsourced mentions. Neither begins to approach the scale Trump described.

[...]

Trump said he "watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" as the World Trade Center collapsed.

This defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence.

Instead, all we found were a couple of news articles that described rumors of celebrations that were either debunked or unproven.

Trump's recollection of events in New Jersey in the hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks flies in the face of all the evidence we could find. We rate this statement Pants on Fire. [Politifact.com, 11/22/15]

NY Times: MTV Video Trump Cited Actually Shows "A Very Different Event" Than What Trump Described. The New York Times reported that the MTV video cited by Trump, which has been released by MTV News, in fact debunks his claim. The MTV News report "looked into rumors of celebrations in Paterson and found just two sources," one of whom reported seeing "about a dozen children, 14 years or younger." That source later said "their behavior seemed more like routine 'acting out'" (emphasis added):

Reporters who have searched for, and failed to find, any trace of the video Donald J. Trump claims to have seen on Sept. 11, 2001, showing "thousands and thousands" of American Muslims cheering in New Jersey as the World Trade Center collapsed, have been repeatedly assured by the candidate's supporters on social networks that such footage does exist.

As evidence, many of Mr. Trump's supporters have pointed to a detailed account of a television report on the reaction to the attack in an Arab-American neighborhood of Paterson, N.J., described by Debbie Schlussel, a conservative political activist and blogger who is deeply critical of Muslims.

Writing on her blog in 2013, Ms. Schlussel insisted that "even leftist MTV News (yes, that MTV) broadcast news reports showing thousands of Palestinian Muslims outside Paterson's town hall, cheering the 9/11 attacks against America (and starting a riot using cement garbage cans and metal poles, which they used to attack police)."

Over the holiday weekend, MTV News dug out the original report from its archives, and posted it online with a new interview of the sole witness to what appears to have been a very different event than the one Mr. Trump, and Ms. Schlussel, have been saying they watched on television.

The MTV News report, first broadcast on Nov. 17, 2001, looked into rumors of celebrations in Paterson and found just two sources: the witness account of a resident, Emily Acevedo -- who recalled seeing about a dozen children, 14 years old or younger, "chanting and raving" and "saying 'Burn America,'" outside the South Paterson library on Main Street that night -- and a third-hand account from Curtis Sliwa, the host of a live radio show on WABC-FM in New York, whose listeners phoned in to say that they had heard of "people celebrating" on that same street.

Ms. Acevedo, who was a senior in high school at the time, told MTV last week that she was not sure if the rowdy kids were celebrating. In hindsight, she said, their behavior seemed more like routine "acting out."

"What I saw that night," she recalled, "is not anything, any different than would've happened on any other summer night, on any other day where school was let out early. These were kids acting out because they had the time to."

Those accounts square with research into unsubstantiated rumors of mass celebrations of the attacks by Arab-Americans published in 2005 by Gary Alan Fine and Irfan Khawaja, a professor at Felician University in Lodi, N.J., in the book "Rumor Mill: The Social Impact of Rumor and Legend." [The New York Times, 12/2/15]

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