When the Press Attacks Donald Trump, the Truth Is Optional [Updated]

In recent days Donald Trump has caught flak for several ostensibly anti-Muslim comments. Among them was his statement that he saw thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating after the twin towers collapsed on September 11, 2001. This claim has been roundly and unanimously denounced. NPR says:

[W]hen he was questioned by ABC News today about his assertion that “thousands and thousands of people” cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 just across the river in New Jersey, Trump doubled down.

“It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. I saw it,” Trump said.

George Stephanopoulos responded, “You saw that with your own eyes? Police say it didn’t happen.”

Trump said: “George, it did happen. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. …

We asked our library to look through contemporaneous news reports. They tells us that that they could not turn up any news accounts of American Muslims cheering or celebrating in the wake of Sept. 11.

A 2007 piece from Reuters about Paterson, New Jersey, does address the celebrations but it concludes that they never happened. …

After Trump initially made the assertion on the stump on Friday, The New York Times came to the same conclusion:

There were cheers of support in some Middle Eastern countries that day, which were broadcast on television. But a persistent Internet rumor of Muslims celebrating in Paterson, N.J., was discounted by police officials at the time. A search of news accounts from that period shows no reports of mass cheering in Jersey City.

The Associated Press also undertook to fact-check Trump’s claim:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he saw people cheering the Sept. 11 attacks across the river in New Jersey — but there’s no evidence that ever happened. …

Footage of Muslims in Middle Eastern countries cheering news of the attacks were broadcast on television.

But there is no evidence of mass celebrations by Muslims in Jersey City, which sits right across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.

So NPR, the New York Times and the Associated Press searched contemporaneous news accounts and could find no evidence of Muslim-Americans cheering in Jersey City. That’s odd. Because it took me less than two minutes to find this story from the Washington Post dated September 18, 2001 (although I did have to spend $3.95 to buy it from the Post’s archives):

In Jersey City, 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 and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

Here is the story in its entirety, by Serge F. Kovaleski and Fredrick Kunkle:

Northern New Jersey Draws Probers' Eyes

Then there is this follow-up from Irfan Khawaja in July 2004:

In an email to me on Dec. 16, 2003, Kovaleski indicated that his information had come from the Jersey City Police Department, and that he had confirmed the JCPD’s information via interviews of eyewitnesses of the celebration.

I don’t think Trump saw anyone celebrating in Jersey City on television, but I could be wrong about that. In any event, NPR, the New York Times and the Associated Press are simply wrong when they tell their audiences that there is no evidence of Muslims in America celebrating on September 11, and no contemporaneous news stories to that effect.

Why does this happen? Are NPR, the Times and the AP incapable of using Google? Perhaps. But here is another possibility: note that the Times and the AP coyly limited their denials to news accounts of “mass cheering” or “mass celebrations” in Jersey City. I think they found the Washington Post story but preferred not to mention it. Instead, they deceived their readers by silently making the implicit judgment that “a number of people” are not a “mass.”

I think that these news outlets are so hysterically eager to discredit any concerns about Islam that they won’t let something as minor as the facts get in their way. There is dishonesty here, but it is on the part of NPR, the New York Times and the Associated Press, not Donald Trump.

UPDATE: Now it’s Tom Brokaw, accusing Trump of telling “flat-out lies. … [It’s] completely wrong. It did not happen.” How does Brokaw know it did not happen? Why do all of these liberals express themselves with such categorical certainty?

I think Trump exaggerated when he said that “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, but I also think that there were, indeed, some American Muslims who cheered them. If a liberal wants to say, “Well, sure, there were some who celebrated the attacks, but there weren’t very many, so it’s OK,” fine. They can make that argument. (The obvious next question would be, how many were there?) But the hysterical and unqualified denunciations of Trump by the liberal media are far more misleading than his original statements were.

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