Donald Trump, the leading US presidential candidate from the Republican Party, has insisted he was "100 percent right" when he claimed thousands of Muslim Americans in the state of New Jersey cheered after the September 11, 2001 attacks, despite lacking any evidence.
In a phone interview with NBC's "Meet the Press” on Sunday, Trump said he has heard from "hundreds of people that agree" that there were televised Muslim celebrations of the 9/11 attacks, even though fact-checkers have discredited his assertion.
"I saw it. So many people saw it," said Trump, who among the US presidential candidates, has been the most belligerent in expressing skepticism about Muslims in the United States.
"So, why would I take it back? I'm not going to take it back," the billionaire businessman said.
"Why wouldn't it have taken place?" he said of a Muslim celebration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. "I've had hundreds of people call in and tweet in on Twitter, saying that they saw it and I was 100 percent right."
When NBC anchor Chuck Todd suggested that "this didn't happen in New Jersey," he quickly rejected his assertion. “It did happen in New Jersey," Trump said.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump doubled down on his comments, insisting that not only Arab Muslims in New Jersey cheered 9/11, but Muslims across the world celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. “Worldwide, the Muslims were absolutely going wild,” he said.
Trump’s increasingly inflammatory comments are causing party rivals to step up attacks against him and some conservatives to label him a "fascist."
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie responded that if a celebration “had happened, I would remember it."
Trump’s rhetoric has become so belligerent that some political observers, even inside his party, are asking whether he is committed to democratic principles.
Trump has also drawn strong criticism and disbelief from legal experts for saying earlier this month that he would require American Muslims to register in a database in response to the Paris attacks.
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