Donald Trump Misremembers Israeli 9/11 Story, Blames Muslims
On Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” program to talk about his campaign. Some of the questions Trump was asked by anchor George Stephanopoulos related to recent statements Trump made to the media concerning the tracking of Muslims in the United States and whether Trump actually saw Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey, as he claimed.
While Trump was reported to have said he was open to the idea of putting all Muslims in America into “a database” where they would be tracked, the Trump campaign disputed the report and said reporters put words in his mouth. Trump only committed to monitoring certain mosques rather than any broader program during his interview with Stephanopoulos.
But when the claim about seeing Arab Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks came up again, Trump doubled down:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw that …
TRUMP: It was on television. I saw it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — with your own eyes.
TRUMP: George, it did happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Police say it didn’t happen.
TRUMP: There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George.
There actually was a group of people (not thousands) in Jersey City, New Jersey reported to have been celebrating the 9/11 attacks. They just were not Arabs or Muslims, but five Israeli nationals who were later arrested and eventually deported.
That story did get a lot of coverage, especially after The Forward, a Jewish newspaper based in New York, reported that the FBI believed that two of the five Israelis were intelligence operatives. Counterpunch also published a lengthy story on both the celebrating Israelis and an alleged program by the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, that tracked Islamic extremists in the US. Some of the Mossad agents were allegedly tracking individuals who turned out to be 9/11 hijackers.
The author of the Counterpunch story, Chris Ketcham, as well as the author of one of The Forward’s stories on the topic, Marc Perelman, discussed the story on Democracy Now in 2007.
Not surprisingly, the story has served as the basis for a lot of alternative theorizing about the events of 9/11 which may have kept it in the news longer than it would have been otherwise. In any case, the five Israelis are the only people to have been reported to have been, as Trump put it, “cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”
As Stephanopoulos noted repeatedly during the interview, the police in Jersey City have no records of any Arabs celebrating during 9/11, let alone “thousands.” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop took to Twitter to say Trump’s claim is the result of memory problems or dishonesty.
Already facing criticism for publishing false statistics about black crime rates on Twitter that came from racist sources, Trump now appears to have re-purposed a story central to many alternative 9/11 theory narratives and added an Islamophobic twist for conservative consumption. The lies are getting huge.