Presidential races

Carson walks back support for Trump’s controversial 9/11 claim

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Ben Carson’s campaign is walking back his support for Donald Trump’s controversial assertion that there was news footage showing “thousands of people” cheering the 9/11 attacks from New Jersey.

Doug Watts, Carson’s communications director, said Carson confused protests in the Middle East after the 9/11 attacks, which were documented at the time, with the New Jersey protests Trump has been referring to. 

“Dr. Carson does not stand behind the statement attributed to him early today regarding events surrounding 9/11,” Watts said in a statement to The Hill on Monday.

“He does not believe Muslim Americans in New Jersey were celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers, rather he recalls the ample news footage of crowds in the Middle East celebrating the tragic events of 9/11,” he added. “He found their jubilation inappropriate and disturbing, but did not and does not consider it representative of the Muslim American population or the Muslim population at-large.”

{mosads}“It was a mistake on his part and he clearly wasn’t really thinking about New Jersey, he was thinking about the Middle East,” Watts said earlier Monday to ABC News, which first reported that Carson was walking back his comments.

Trump has been under fire for his repeated assertions — at a campaign rally and then again on national television — that he saw television news footage showing “thousands” cheering in parts of New Jersey with “large Arab populations.” 

At an event earlier Monday, Carson had said that he saw the footage Trump had been referring to and panned it as an “inappropriate response.” 

“There are going to be people who respond inappropriately to virtually everything,” Carson said. “I think that was an inappropriate response. I don’t know if, on the basis of that, you can say all Muslims are bad people. I really think that would be a stretch.” 

Reporters then asked Carson to clarify if he had seen the cheering in New Jersey on 9/11. 

“I saw film of it,” he said.

Carson’s reversal comes as he faces questions about his grasp of foreign policy as one of the only candidates without experience in elected office.

In recent days he has sought to distance himself from Trump on his flirtation with a database of all Muslims, as well as Trump’s calls for broad surveillance of mosques in the wake of the terror attacks this month.

This story was updated at 6:57 p.m.

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