Did “thousands and thousands of people in New Jersey cheer” after the September 11, 2001 attacks?
All reporter-mocking aside (“Now the poor guy . . . you gotta see this guy”), Donald Trump’s story of “thousands cheering” in New Jersey is taking on the proportions of an epic fairy tale that he can’t get out of. So in typical Trump fashion, he simply doubles down on his fantasy — “demanding an apology from anyone who called him wrong.”
The Donald-In-Wonderland fantasy vision goes like this
“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, he either saw it on TV or watched it personally from his Manhattan apartment where he said he was at the time. We’ll give him a pass for saying he watched in Jersey City as simply “Trump Grammar.”
“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations”
Maybe, as a Manhattanite, he considers Palestine to be “the other side of New Jersey.”
“They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down”
But although there were “reports,” they were regarded at the time as unfounded rumors that were never corroborated, some spawned by chain emails and comments from shock jock Howard Stern’s radio show, according to PolitiFact.
Politifact quotes a Sept. 18, 2001 Washington Post article which said:
“Law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”
One can only wonder how people can “tailgate” on a roof.
In any event, Politifact continues that there is “no evidence that any of these allegations ever stuck.”
So let’s try unpacking the various ludicrous elements of the Trump Tale.
1. Watched on TV – “It was on television, I saw it. It was well covered”
Update: MTV believes they have uncovered what may have been Trump’s video fantasy.1
2. “thousands and thousands” vs “a number of people.
Now that’s a big difference, like the difference between driving down a road at 200 mph and 5 mph. Or, as the students might say, between a “rager” and “chillin‘”.
3. Alleged but never sustained.
Anyone can say anything happened. The crucial 2001 story by the aforementioned former Washington Post reporter Serge Kovaleski that Trump relies on for his validation very clearly uses the phrase “were allegedly seen.”
4. No police reports.
Despite media reports of police inquiries, there is no evidence of actual celebrations or that any investigations resulted in any convictions.
So, assuming that the Jersey police were not in league with Arabs or 9/11 perps and thus might be inclined to cover up, one would expect to see some sort of police record validating the Trumpination.
5. “Where you have large Arab populations.”
Of course this sort of guilt-by-association is pointless. Having a large Arab population doesn’t mean the Arabs were doing the alleged celebrating. However, Trump makes it perfectly clear: …a heavy Arab population that were cheering as the buildings came down.” (From the George Stephanopoulos interview on ABC’s This Week program)
Anyone who has seen a crowd of thousands (or a classroom of students) reacting to some surprising news knows that cheering and astonishment can be confusing to an onlooker. If there was any demonstration of emotion going on at the alleged rooftop tailgate-style parties, it’s possible that the rooftoppers were expressing dismay. Unless you can actually hear them yelling “hooray” or mom-taaz!, [ممتاز] how can you really be sure that they weren’t crying out in horror?
7. Wait a minute…it was 8:45 a.m., and you say “tailgate-style parties” were observed?
The award for the most mealy-mouthed response to Trump’s charge of celebrations has to go to candidate Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, as reported in BuzzFeed News:
“I do not remember that. And so, it’s not something that was part of my recollection. I think if it happened I would remember it. But, you know, there could be some things I forget, too. I don’t remember that.”