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Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Sarasota, Fla., on Saturday. (Photo: Steve Nesius/AP)
Donald Trump isn’t backing down from his controversial comments about Muslims, saying he isn’t sure Islam is an inherently peaceful religion or an inherently violent one.
“You know, there’s something definitely going on,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “I don’t know that that question can be answered. It could be answered two ways. It could be answered both ways. But there’s something going on there. There’s something that there’s a lot of hatred coming out of, at least a big part of it. You see the hatred. I mean, we see it every day.”
The Republican frontrunner cited what he described as “Muslim chants” that interrupted a moment of silence in Turkey following the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris as an example of that hatred.
“You see it whether it’s in Paris or whether it’s the World Trade Center or whether it’s even one minute of silence at a soccer game out of respect for the people that died, and there was no respect by a pretty good group of people in that stadium,” Trump said. “There’s something nasty coming out of there.”
Trump also refused to take back his refuted claim that he saw on television “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“I’m not saying everybody,” the billionaire said. “But there’s a large percentage of people that … went wild and were celebrating all over the world. I think people have to recognize it. And if you don’t recognize it, then we’re never going to solve the problem. But there were a large number of people who celebrated the downing of the World Trade Center.”
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Trump sparred with NBC’s Chuck Todd, who pressed the GOP candidate on his controversial claim.
“This didn’t happen in New Jersey,” Todd said.
“Chuck, it did happen in New Jersey,” Trump replied. “I have hundreds of people that agree with me.”
The real estate mogul again offered a 2001 Washington Post article that reported the FBI was looking into reports of people celebrating as proof of his claim. (Officials could not find evidence such celebrations ever occurred.)
“We’re looking for other articles,” Trump said. “And we’re looking for other clips. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we found them, Chuck. But for some reason, they’re not that easy to come by. I saw it. So many people saw it, Chuck. And so, why would I take it back? I’m not going to take it back.”
“You’re running for president of the United States,” Todd argued. “Your words matter. Truthfulness matters.”
“Take it easy, Chuck. Just play cool,” Trump responded. “Many, many people have seen it. I have a very good memory, I’ll tell you. I saw it somewhere on television many years ago. And I never forgot it.”
Meanwhile, Trump had been scheduled to hold a news conference Monday afternoon at Trump Tower to announce the endorsements of as many as 100 black pastors. But late Sunday, Trump’s campaign said the event would be a “private, informational meet and greet” with a group of African-American religious leaders.
The abrupt change of plans came as some of the black pastors invited to the event said they would not endorse Trump.
“I am not officially endorsing ANY candidate,” Clarence McClendon, a minister in Los Angeles, wrote on Facebook. “And when I do, you will NOT need to hear it from pulpitting court jesters who suffer from intellectual and spiritual myopia.”