By Megan Cassella
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump insisted on Sunday he was “100 percent right” when he said he saw Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey, cheering the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center even though fact-checkers have debunked his claim.
In a phone interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump said he was getting an “unbelievable response” from “hundreds” of people who told him they also saw televised Muslim celebrations of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in Manhattan.
“I saw it. So many people saw it. And, so, why would I take it back? I’m not going to take it back,” said Trump, who has been among the most vocal of the Republican candidates in the race for the November 2016 election in expressing skepticism about Muslims living in the United States.
Trump came under fire last week after making remarks at a rally and in a nationally televised appearance that he had seen thousands of people in Jersey City cheer the collapse of the Twin Towers in Manhattan.
On Saturday, he appeared to reframe his words by saying the sentiment was shared worldwide.
Trump has been a front-runner in many of the polls ahead of next year’s election for the White House. But as the fight against terrorism has come sharply into focus as a campaign issue following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, he has lost some of his lead.
In the past five days, he dropped 12 points from 43 percent to 31 percent, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling of Republican voters nationally, though he continues to hold a wide lead over his competitors.
When his remarks were revisited as an issue on NBC, he said: “All over the world – forget about New Jersey for a second – all over the world, it was reported that Muslims were celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center.”
But he quickly rejected NBC anchor Chuck Todd’s assertion that “this didn’t happen in New Jersey.”
“It did happen in New Jersey,” Trump said. “I have hundreds of people that agree with me.”
He said people were reaching out on social media, telling him in person at campaign rallies and calling the Trump Organization, saying, “We saw it. It was dancing in the streets.”
“I have a very good memory, I’ll tell you,” Trump said. “I saw it somewhere on television many years ago. And I never forgot it.”