Trump Reasserts Claim That 'Thousands' Of N.J. Muslims Cheered After Sept. 11 Monday's rally in Ohio followed the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and a string of controversial remarks that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump had made regarding Muslims in America.
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Trump Reasserts Claim That 'Thousands' Of N.J. Muslims Cheered After Sept. 11

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Trump Reasserts Claim That 'Thousands' Of N.J. Muslims Cheered After Sept. 11

Trump Reasserts Claim That 'Thousands' Of N.J. Muslims Cheered After Sept. 11

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

At a campaign rally in Ohio last night, Donald Trump said once again that on the day of the 9/11 attacks, there were big public celebrations by thousands of Muslims in New Jersey as they watched the twin towers collapse. Trump's latest comments come despite denials by police and other New Jersey public officials and by the absence of news coverage detailing such events that day. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Columbus.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Trump drew 14,000 people at his first campaign stop in this presidential battleground. And he opened with a classic Ohio State football cheer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: O-H.

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: I-O.

GONYEA: But there was a bigger cheer when he pledged, without any details, a tough response to ISIS.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We've got to knock the crap out of them, folks. I'll tell you. We've got to knock them.

GONYEA: And it was this in which Trump embraced an interrogation method now classified as torture.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Would I approve water-boarding? You bet your ass I'd approve it. You bet your ass - in a heartbeat.

(CHEERING)

GONYEA: Then, there's the matter of Trump's claims, first made last week, that when the World Trade Center came down on 9/11, he saw, quote, "thousands and thousands of people cheering in Jersey City." Muslims - but police say it didn't happen. Trump was asked about that Sunday morning on ABC News' "This Week" program.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

TRUMP: 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.

GONYEA: Local officials in New Jersey continue to dismiss Trump's claims. Here's Steve Fulop, the mayor of Jersey City, on news radio station 1010 WINS in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE FULOP: I think it's shameful that he's politicizing 9/11. So from our standpoint, you've really got to question where he's coming from.

GONYEA: Now here's Trump in Columbus last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: The reporters are calling all day, all night. They want to find out, did Trump make a mistake?

GONYEA: Then he read from a 14-year-old Washington Post article from one week after 9/11 as proof of his claim.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Within hours of two jetliners plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks.

GONYEA: Now, there is no reference in the article to Trump's claim of seeing thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City. But he highlights another line in the same story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: And holding tailgate-style - tailgate, do you know what that means? Tailgate, that means football games, Ohio State, thousands of people in parking lots, on roofs. Tailgate is a lot of people.

GONYEA: For this audience, Trump is on point and speaking truth. Fifty-five-year-old Rick Johnson is from Kettering, Ohio.

RICK JOHNSON: Oh, I heard about that too when it happened. A lot of them were cheering, especially over in the Middle East.

GONYEA: But he was saying New Jersey.

JOHNSON: That's possible too.

GONYEA: And Johnson connects that moment to today's fight with ISIS and to the Syrian refugees hoping to settle in the U.S.

JOHNSON: And I believe that the refugees coming in, they need to be - find out who they are. Have a database, where they're at and where they're going to be staying - nothing wrong with that.

GONYEA: Johnson adds that he admires Trump because he tells it straight, even if the fact-checkers say otherwise. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Columbus.

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