Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump said Sunday that he will never back off his claim that he saw “thousands and thousands” of people, presumably Muslims, celebrating and tailgating in New Jersey while the twin towers were falling on September 11th. On “Meet the Press” Sunday Trump said that hundreds of people are calling and tweeting him saying they saw it too.
Host Chuck Todd tried to get Trump to do the right thing and admit he was wrong. “You’re running for president of the United States,” Todd told Trump. “Your words matter. Truthfulness matters.” Trump responded “Take it easy, Chuck. Just play cool.”
Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asked Trump why it is that no one can find the videos. Trump insisted that he saw it on TV. He shows no signs of backing down.
No one, including Trump, can authenticate his story. Everyone, except Trump’s alleged callers, say that what Trump saw simply did not happen. No articles or footage can be found in any contemporaneous publication or archives that back up Trump’s assertion. It is easy to lie about something no one can disprove. It takes guts, however, to repeatedly lie about something when all the evidence disproves that lie.
Trump may really believe that he did see Muslims cheering, even though he didn’t. If someone hears something over and over again they begin to believe it. This is especially true if they are pre-disposed to believe what they are hearing. Trump may have seen blogs claiming that Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating on 911 and he accepted it as the truth. Once someone internalizes a lie, anything debunking that lie is seen by them as the real lie.
This is not Trump’s first rodeo. In 2012 he said that his investigators found “solid proof” that Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery. He has never revealed that proof or the identities of the investigators that allegedly found it. Trump stands by that story and still says Obama was born in Kenya. He says he will release the proof at the “appropriate” time. One might have thought that an appropriate time might have been before Obama’s second inauguration.
It is possible that Trump knows the 911 tale is a lie but he knows it excites his base. Many of the people supporting Trump would like to believe that is true. Perhaps they are calling Trump saying they saw it too because they want to believe it. It fits their narrative about Muslims and others who they believe are taking America away from them.
Many Republican voters, and others, believe that America was founded by white Christians for white Christians. They hold that non-whites are not “real” Americans—even if they are Christians like President Obama. They are angry and want to “take their country back.” That is a constant theme of voters and politicians on the right.
Trump’s success is due to the fact that he understands that anger and he knows how to capitalize on it. When people are angry, they want their anger addressed in blunt, bombastic language, not subtle, politically correct statements. As Jefferson Airplane put it, “When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies. Don’t you need somebody to love?” They love Trump and he knows it. So, he will never back down.