Hours after Ben Carson told reporters he remembers seeing American Muslims celebrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, his campaign said the GOP presidential candidate was “thinking something differently” and does not remember such reaction in the U.S.
“Dr. Carson does not stand by the statements that were reported today. He was hearing and thinking something differently at the the time,” Carson communications director Doug Watts said in a statement on Monday. “He does, however, recall and had his mind focused on the celebrations in the Middle East. He is not suggesting that American Muslims were in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the twin towers."
Watts added that Carson apologizes to “anybody offended by that.”
Earlier in the day, Carson said that he, like fellow GOP candidate Donald Trump has claimed, has seen “newsreels” of American Muslims celebrating the attack in New Jersey.
Trump raised eyebrows this weekend when he said he saw "thousands" of people cheering as the twin towers fell on September 11th.
"I watched in Jersey City, NJ where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down," Trump said Saturday at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama. "Thousands of people were cheering, so something's going on we got to find out what it is."
Monday, after many questions about his claim, Trump tweeted a link to a Washington Post article from 2001 that mentions law enforcement questioning "a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attack and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops." Law enforcement has since said these were unproven claims.
As national security and foreign policy are issues of growing concern to Republican voters, Carson has increased the amount of time he spends on foreign policy in his standard stump speech at his rallies.
With polling showing Americans more willing to forgo some civil liberties in the name of safety, Carson told supporters, "I would say we use our intelligence and we monitor anything, a mosque, a church, a museum, a supermarket, anyplace where radicalization is going on."
Detailing his plan to fight ISIS, Carson said it's both a military and a psychological battle, saying he would work to disrupt their cyber abilities and recruiting tools.
"We need to be talking to the imams and the clerics and telling them that their job is to draw the distinction between the moderate and reasonable Arabs and the radical ones, because if they can't draw it, they can't expect us to draw it," Carson said.
On dealing with Russian aggression under Putin, Carson says he will reinstate the missile shield, and "put it right back up in his face."
"We also have to recognize when we come up against a bully. Putin is a bully. The only thing that is keeping him under control right now are oil prices," Carson said.
However, the former neurosurgeon who says he will release the names of the experts who counsel him on foreign policy and national security this week—admits he still relies on television for specifics he highlights at his events.
At several events recently, Carson has called for more funding for the F.B.I., because it's ridiculous, he says, that "they only have the ability to monitor somewhere between 30 and 60 people."
When pushed on the source of his data, Carson said he's talking about those who can be monitored full-time, and added he got it "from television - same place where the president seems to get most of his information."
The FBI, however, currently has the ability to "monitor" thousands of people.