Former Gov. DiFrancesco: I don’t remember people celebrating 9/11 in NJ
Former New Jersey Gov. Donald DiFrancesco said he never heard of any mass celebrations of people celebrating the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — and is sure he'd know if there had been.
“I never heard anything like that. I have no recollection of it and no one that I talk to has any recollection of it,” DiFrancesco, 71, told ABC News. The Republican served as governor from 2001 to 2002. “I think I would have known if it happened.”
DiFrancesco said he was at Liberty State Park in Jersey City during the attacks.
“I guess, if two or three people did something somewhere, maybe it’s possible,” he added. “But no, not thousands, no. I would have (had) to send people over there to handle security if that were happening.”
DiFrancesco's comments come after repeated assertions by Donald Trump that he saw "thousands and thousands of people" in Jersey City celebrating the 9/11 attacks — assertions for which he hasn't been able to point to any supporting evidence, and that fact-check stories by PolitiFact and the Washington Post have criticized as an "urban myth" and "outrageous."
“I don’t recall that. I don’t,” Gov. Chris Christie told reporters while on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, New Jersey Advance Media reports. But Christie also said it's possible there are things he doesn't remember about that time.
For years, online and casual accounts of celebrations in nearby Paterson have been repeated — often by blogs deeply critical of Muslims, such as BareNakedIslam.com, which wrote a post about a 2013 Palestinian American Day celebration, saying, “Amid Palestinian (and Hamas?) flags, Patterson celebrates ‘Palestinian American Day,’ bringing to mind the way the Palestinians celebrated 9/11 in the streets of Patterson back in 2001.”
But Monday, Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale, who'd been chief of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, and who was campaigning for sheriff in Passaic County at the time of the attacks, said those reports were plainly untrue.
“People can repeat it all they want — that is absolutely false,” he told New Jersey 101.5, adding that police received no reports of mass gatherings, flag-burnings or any disruptions.
Ben Carson Monday said he, too, had seen television reports of people celebrating in New Jersey — but later walked back those statements, to say the reports he saw were of people celebrating overseas. There are confirmed television reports of celebrations in Palestinian territories and elsewhere immediately after the 9/11 attacks,
Still, hundreds of people responding to Facebook posts by New Jersey 101.5 Monday about the reports insisted they'd seen celebrations, many saying they'd seen them in Paterson. Others called into the station Monday saying the same.
Some described seeing celebrations on television — though no such reports of celebrations in New Jersey have surfaced. Others said they were told by friends, or police of celebrations.
Some said they'd seen celebrations with their own eyes.
“I had my business on Pennsylvania Ave in Paterson, N.J. I saw people on Crooks Ave. and Main Street cheering and raising Middle Eastern flags,” Mark Siegel wrote. “I’ll tell you exactly where I was. I had stopped in at Biggs bagels on crooks ave by the railroad tracks. I was wondering why all these crazy people were cheering. Find out a few minutes later America was under attack. I saw it with my own eyes. I witnessed pure evil. Donald Trump is right.”
Trump Monday Tweeted that he deserved an apology for reports his claims were unfounded:
His Tweet cites a Washington Post Story from Sept. 18, 2011, saying law enforcement detained and questioned "a number" of people who were alleged to have been seen celebrating the attacks. But the Washington Post never cited a source or ran another story saying if those allegations were substantiated; an Associated Press story at the same time said such reports were unfounded.
The Washington Post story also doesn't discuss anything like the "thousands" Trump had said he'd seen. In its own fact-check article Sunday, the Post reports "there were some reports of celebrations overseas, in Muslim countries, but nothing that we can find involving the Arab populations of New Jersey except for unconfirmed reports."
Above: New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea says that while there are no confirmed news reports we can find of 'thousands' of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in Jersey City, he's heard a lot from individuals who say they saw some people in New Jersey doing so.