Arguing that there are terrorist sympathizers in the United States, Donald Trump says he saw “thousands” of New Jerseyans celebrating after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” the Republican presidential candidate said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. “And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”
The next day, ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he misspoke, noting that “the police say that didn’t happen.”
Trump — who has said he was in his Manhattan apartment the morning of the attack — doubled down.
“It was on television. I saw it,” Trump said. “It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”
We looked back at the record to see what we could find about American Muslim celebrations in New Jersey on 9/11. While we found widely broadcast video of people in Palestine celebrating, we found no evidence to back up Trump’s description of events on American soil.
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.
The Associated Press, on Sept. 17, 2001, described “rumors of rooftop celebrations of the attack by Muslims” in Jersey City. But the same report said those rumors were “unfounded.”
The Washington Post, on Sept. 18, 2001, published an article that claimed “law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.” The Post story includes no source for this information, and we found no evidence that any of these allegations ever stuck.