While on the topic of a national database for Muslims and surveillance of Mosques in a speech at a rally at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala., Mr. Trump made the following claim that Muslims celebrated on rooftops in New Jersey on 9/11/01.
“Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering. So something’s going on. We’ve got to find out what it is.”
Irfan Khawaja, assistant professor of philosophy at Felician University in Lodi, spent years researching reports of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey.
After extensive study and face-to-face interviews, Khawaja concluded there was no evidence of large-scale celebrations by Muslim in New Jersey on Sept. 11. But, he did find some witnesses to a small gathering of teenagers in Paterson that he said may have been the root of some of the rumors.
To single out a single religion for surveillance goes to a dark place reserved for Nazis and is a direct contradiction to the free exercise of religion protected under the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
What is clear is that there were no widespread televised celebrations in New Jersey on 9/11. In fact, what Trump described would have been big news, and the reporters at the Daily News, Star-Ledger and elsewhere who tried and failed to track down rumors of 9/11 celebrations could have just turned on the TV to get their story.
But Donald Trump read from a Washington Post article from September 18, 2001 which proved he was right.
After multiple news sources, such as the Star-Ledger and the New York Daily News, reviewed their archives which uncovered no evidence this was ever a televised event, they challenged him on his statements asking for a burden of proof. In response, Donald Trump tweeted out the following link to a Washington Post article and demanded an apology.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 23, 2015
However what Donald Trump didn’t read from the Washington Post article was it very clearly reporting on the rumors of celebrations and not reporting on actual celebrations.
The Washington Post Fact Checker talked to both reporters on the Post story cited by Trump, and neither could recall if the allegations about the tailgate-style celebration were verified. “I specifically visited the Jersey City building and neighborhood where the celebrations were purported to have happened,” said Fredrick Kunkle, one of the Post reporters on that story. “But I could never verify that report.”
What about news reports there were celebrations on Atlantic Avenue in Queens?
Atlantic Ave in Queens is the site of the Dawood Mosque. There is no mention in any major news site about celebrations occurring here after 9/11, only reports of people spitting and cursing at members.
What about news reports there were celebrations in Jersey City?
New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer Jr. wrote in that as disturbing as the accounts were, no one found evidence to support them.
“We followed up on that report instantly because of its implications if true,” Farmer wrote. “The word came back quickly from Jersey City, later from Paterson. False report. Never happened.”
A Washington Post story said that Jersey City police detained “a number of people” who were “allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding a tailgate-style party” in Jersey City. That allegation was unattributed and unverified as explained above. Even if it did happen, and there is no evidence of it, the celebrating was not on TV and did not involve “thousands and thousands of people.”
What about news reports there were celebrations in Paterson, New Jersey?
On September 11th, a report circulated on some radio stations and Internet sites that Muslims in Paterson had demonstrated in celebration. Paterson officials promptly issued a statement denying the report, and Muslim leaders insist it was pure fabrication.
The source was one person, a then-high school senior named Emily Acevedo, who was interviewed in an MTV documentary that aired on September 17, 2001 as saying she had seen a group of kids acting up in front of the Paterson courthouse, banging on trash cans and shouting. She does not say they were Middle Eastern or Arab. Her recollections in the documentary are intercut with comments from others, including a reporter on a newscast, saying nothing happened.
MTV News interviewed Acevedo 14 years later and she said what she “saw that night [was] not anything any different than would’ve happened on any other summer night, on any other day where school was let out early.” So this demonstrates once again there is no evidence of mass demonstrations. At best, there were only some kids acting up–who may or may not have been Arab.
But my hero and radio host Curtis Silwa said that people were celebrating, cheering, when they heard that the Wold Trade Center had dropped.
Donald Trump tweeted a video of radio host Curtis Silwa making the claim that there were people celebrating and cheering when they heard the World Trade Center had dropped.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2015
But Silwa was just repeating the same rumors. 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.”
When Silwa was questioned for his repeating of debunked evidence, he offered no apology, and for his defense he presented the exact same debunked evidence of teenagers playing in Paterson, New Jersey.
— Curtis and Kuby (@curtisandkuby) December 1, 2015
But Rudy Giuliani said we did have some pockets of celebration?
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did say in an interview on CNN’s New Day on December 1, 2015.
“The police department set up a unit, and we kept track of it, for about 3 or 4 weeks. And we did have some attacks, some celebrating. This is true. We did have some pockets of celebration. Umm, some in Queens and some in Brooklyn.”
But what Trump supporters neglect is the very next sentence Giuliani disputed Trump’s statement as an exaggeration of an estimated “10, 12, 30, 40,” people, not thousands. Giuliani continued to say, “I heard reports of such things in New Jersey, in New York,” he said. “I didn’t see it.”
As evidence of pockets of celebration Giuliani cited a report of a Muslim candy store owner who was beaten up for dancing, but turned out it was an unrelated hate crime. A Muslim candy store owner was standing in his store and was sucker punched by teenagers. No reports of dancing or celebrating.
When journalists pressed Giuliani to explain himself, his people reportedly told the news station that Giuliani was, in fact, referring to a different incident.
But didn’t Trump find a CBS report that proved him right?
It is true The Trump campaign posted snippets of video clips from a local CBS New York City newscast at the time that reported on the arrest of “eight men”–not “thousands and thousands”– who were reported by neighbors as having celebrated the attack.
But while the newscast quotes an investigator as allegedly saying these men knew about the attack in advance, it is unclear if any charges were ever brought–or if the claims of celebrations were ever proven. As New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer said, investigators looked into many such reports–and found them to be groundless.
CBS News looked into the claim themselves and reported that “the full television news report never showed any footage of New Jersey residents celebrating on the roof. And the anchor Pablo Guzmán said only that a source reported ‘cheering’ and that police were called to a building in Jersey City to find ‘eight men celebrating’ — far fewer than the thousands Trump claimed to see.”
So this appears to be yet another unconfirmed report.
Isn’t there video of tens of thousands around the world celebrating?
Around the world in Muslim countries overseas there were some reports of celebrations, but nothing involving the populations of New York and New Jersey, as we detailed above.