More questions emerge over Trump's 9/11 celebrations claim

Last Updated Dec 2, 2015 12:46 PM EST

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is continuing to defend his story that he witnessed "thousands" of people in New Jersey cheering after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, even as new reports emerged to challenge the assertion.

At a rally Tuesday night, Trump fired back at the critics calling for his apology, repeating that he "saw it" happening.

"There were a lot of happy people over in New Jersey," Trump told a crowd gathered in Waterville, New Hampshire. "And I saw it and a lot of people saw it, and I'm getting hundreds of phone calls and a lot of other people are too, and things are all of a sudden materializing. So people said you should apologize. I said I don't apologize. Hey look, if I'm wrong about something, I want to apologize."

Later that night, his campaign touted a local news report as proof of Trump's claim.

A senior adviser to Trump, Daniel Scavino, tweeted out a 15-second news clip from a 2001 CBS affiliate report to back up the story:

The clip was of correspondent Pablo Guzmán, of WCBS in New York, reporting that an investigator had told him suspects were found on the roof of a Jersey City building with "a model of the [World] Trade Center."

"They knew that the planes were going to hit, and they wanted a ring-side seat," Guzmán said in the clip.

But the full television news report never showed any footage of New Jersey residents celebrating on the roof. And Guzmán said only that a source reported "cheering" and that police were called to a building in Jersey City to find "eight men celebrating" -- far fewer than the thousands Trump claimed to see.

"What no one else outside the terrorist task force knows, is that just a couple of blocks from that Jersey City apartment the FBI raided yesterday...is another apartment building, one that an investigator told me is 'swarming' with suspects," Guzmán said in the 2001 report. "Suspects who, I'm told, were cheering on the roof when they saw the planes slam into the Trade Center. Police were called to the building by other neighbors and found eight men celebrating -- six of them tenants in the building."

In a series of tweets sent early Wednesday, Guzmán responded to Trump's adviser, saying there were "many such anecdotes circulating then" and only relayed what law enforcement sources had told him:

To refute the criticisms, Scavino later put up a highly edited video of news clips that mention the "celebrations." The video, posted to YouTube, includes reports from WCBS, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and recent Fox News shows.

In one brief segment from the minute-long video, former CBS News anchor Dan Rather spoke with "The Late Show" host David Letterman.

The Scavino video shows Rather saying "they got on the roof...to look across -- they knew what was going to happen. And when it happened, they celebrated."

But in the full interview with Letterman on September 17, 2001, Rather provided larger context to the cheers: "They're celebrating. There is one report - this has not been confirmed - but there are several reports: It was a cell - one of these cells across the Hudson River - and they got on the - this is a report and I emphasize I don't know this for a fact, but there's several witnesses who say this happened."

Trump has cited other news reports that seemed to prove his claim that New Jersey Muslims were celebrating after the World Trade Center towers were struck.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted out a short video clip of radio host Curtis Sliwa from two days after the attack:

Curtis Sliwa - doing tv commentary on 9/13/2001. Good job Curtis. Please send your apologies to @realDonaldTrump. pic.twitter.com/g07VZmNmAW

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2015

But Sliwa refuted Trump's claim, saying that the clip was "edited" and that there were only "a handful of people" celebrating.

Thanks @realDonaldTrump for the trip down memory lane. I was saying there were a handful of people. Clip is edited. https://t.co/PnqhCv8zvV

- Curtis Sliwa (@CurtisSliwa) December 1, 2015

Earlier this week, others referenced MTV News coverage after September 11 as further evidence that there were "thousands" of people cheering the attacks. But on Tuesday, MTV News republished the full news report, which shows a young New Jersey resident who describes seeing "13, maybe 14 at most" teenagers apparently celebrating.

"They were kids," a woman said in the 2001 clip. "They didn't know what they were doing, but they had so much hate."