For nearly two weeks, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has stood by his claim that he saw video of “thousands and thousands” of Muslim residents in New Jersey cheering for the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.
“Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And 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,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Nov. 19.
The next morning on ABC News, Trump defended the claim to “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos, saying, “It was on television. I saw it… It was well covered at the time, George.”
Trump has continued this week to defend his claim that he saw thousands celebrating, telling New Hampshire television news network NH1 on Tuesday, “If you look at for instance where I said the thousands of Muslims were cheering. It turned out to be true.”
But despite Trump’s claims, no media outlet or Trump’s campaign has uncovered any reports from the time confirming that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
There have only been anecdotal reports and rumors of small groups of people celebrating the attacks in Paterson and Jersey City, New Jersey -- none of which were televised at the time and none of which have been confirmed.
Law enforcement and local officials in New Jersey have also dismissed Trump's claims of massive celebrations. Former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer told ABC News, “The reports of widespread celebrating were not true. Simply not true.” Donald DiFrancesco, the acting governor of New Jersey on Sept. 11, also told ABC News, “I guess, if two or three people did something somewhere, maybe it’s possible. But no, not thousands, no. I would have had to send people over there to handle security if that were happening.”
ABC News has reached out repeatedly for further comment from the Trump campaign since he spoke to “This Week.” His campaign has declined to comment.
Now an extensive search of ABC News transcript and video archives shows that no footage of celebrations in New Jersey aired on ABC News on Sept. 11 or on the following day’s special report coverage of the attacks.
Instead, there are repeated mentions on ABC News of celebrations on Sept. 11 among a group of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, 5,700 miles away from New Jersey. The Associated Press Television News video aired on ABC News shows dozens of Palestinians, many of them young boys, cheering the attacks in the streets while cars drive by honking and others hand out sweets in celebration. Mentions of celebrations in other Middle East countries, including Egypt and Lebanon, were also reported on air by ABC News at the time.
The only known on-air mention on ABC News related to celebrations of any kind in New Jersey came at 11:28 p.m. on Sept. 11, when former ABC News correspondent John Miller (now the NYPD deputy commissioner for counter-terrorism and intelligence) gave ABC News anchor Peter Jennings an update on reports of a van investigated for explosives.
Miller explained the van “was stopped after people reported seeing three men celebrating in Liberty Park, opposite the World Trade Center on the New Jersey side of the river, celebrating with joy after the explosion.” The three men reportedly seen celebrating were later stopped along with two others in the van, which was found by police not to carry any explosives.
Underscoring the rarity of on-air reports of any celebrations in the U.S. on Sept. 11, Jennings interjected, “I must say that anybody -- anybody seen celebrating this attack on American soil that they'd be lynched, it seems to me, almost immediately.”
Miller responded, “That, it would certainly seem, that was the reason people notified authorities, because the behavior’s at least bizarre if not suspicious.”
ABC News later extensively reported on the individuals stopped in the van, detailing an investigation into five young Israelis and their possible connection to Israeli intelligence. ABC News reported in June 2002 that the men were held in detention for more than two months before being deported to Israel.
The above video features reporting by ABC News of celebrations on September 11 and 12, 2001, following the 9/11 attacks.
ABC News’ Josh Margolin and John Santucci contributed reporting to this article.