“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd repeatedly grilled Donald Trump on Sunday about the real-estate mogul’s disputed claim that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey, celebrating the World Trade Center attack.
More than half of the interview was dominated by Todd questioning and even flatly rejecting Trump’s claim about the September 11, 2001, attack.
“You demand and you’ve demanded of me pinpoint accuracy when I report on things about you, including, for instance, your net worth,” Todd noted in his first question. “Why shouldn’t we demand the same pinpoint accuracy in the claims that you make?”
After Todd told Trump that “nobody can find evidence” of the widespread celebration, and that reports indicated “that it was a false rumour,” the Republican presidential front-runner held his ground.
“Chuck, I saw it on television. So did many other people,” Trump said as he and Todd talked over one another.
Trump did offer that it could have been Paterson, New Jersey, where he saw the celebrations.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I’ve heard Jersey City. I’ve heard Paterson. It was 14 years ago. But I saw it on television. I saw clips. And so did many other people.”
After some additional back-and-forth, Todd directly told Trump: “Mr. Trump, this didn’t happen in New Jersey. There were plenty of reports. And you’re feeding that stereotype.”
“Chuck, it did happen in New Jersey,” he shot back. “I have hundreds of people that agree with me.”
Trump has been battling media fact-checkers since the previous weekend, when he first claimed he saw “thousands and thousands of people” cheering across the river as the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. Trump said this while making the case for surveilling certain mosques. Northern New Jersey is home to a large Muslim community.
Trump aggressively pushed back against his critics, and he frequently cites as evidence a disputed September 18, 2001, report in The Washington Post.
During his Sunday-morning interview, Trump argued that supposed worldwide Muslim celebrations on September 11, 2001, suggest that similar rallies would have occurred in northern New Jersey. According to The New York Times, some Palestinians were filmed dancing in East Jerusalem after the attack.
“Chuck, you have a huge Muslim population over there. And that’s fine. But you have a huge Muslim population. … Why wouldn’t it have taken place?” Trump asked. “I’ve had hundreds of people call in and tweet in on Twitter, saying that they saw it, and I was 100% right.”
Todd and Trump then talked over one another again as the “Meet the Press” host questioned whether Trump should really cite tweets as evidence.
“You wouldn’t make a business deal based on retweets and based on hearsay. You’re running for president of the United States,” Todd said. “Your words matter. Truthfulness matters. Fact-based stuff matters. No?”
“Take it easy, Chuck. Just play cool,” Trump replied. “This is people in this country that love our country that saw this, by the hundreds they’re calling, and they’re tweeting. And there’s a lot of people.”
Trump later added: “I have a very good memory. I saw it somewhere on television many years ago and I never forgot it.”
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