Resurfaced tweet from 'Green Book' writer on debunked claim about 9/11 draws backlash

In a now-deleted tweet from 2015, screenwriter Nick Vallelonga appeared to support a debunked claim that Muslims in New Jersey cheered the attack.
Image: 2019 Golden Globes - Show - Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Nick Vallelonga, winner of Best Screenplay — Motion Picture, at the 76th Golden Globe Awards Show in Beverly Hills, California, on Sunday.Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal via Reuters

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By Doha Madani

Social media users on Wednesday resurfaced a 2015 tweet from a "Green Book" screenwriter that appeared to support a debunked claim about Muslims in Jersey City cheering after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In a since-deleted tweet, Nick Vallelonga posted a message tagging then-candidate Donald Trump saying that he was "100% correct" in his claim that Muslims in the New Jersey city celebrated the attacks.

"100% correct," the deleted tweet by Vallelonga read. "Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it when you did, possibly on local CBS News."

Twitter users found the post and began to recirculate it Wednesday evening. At some point Wednesday, Vallelonga apparently deleted the tweet and deactivated his Twitter account.

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Vallelonga did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

“My industry just gave him a Golden Globe for writing,” one Twitter user, Jordan Horowitz, a film producer, posted Wednesday with a screenshot of Vallelonga’s tweet. “This is all too disgusting.”

As a candidate for president, Trump claimed he saw on TV Muslims in Jersey City cheering after the 9/11 attacks. In November 2015, Trump defended his comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying, “I saw it. So many people saw it … So why would I take it back. I’m not going to take it back.”

As NBC News reported in 2016, extensive reviews of television coverage found no footage of Muslims cheering in Jersey City in the wake of the attacks.

A local New York City affiliate, WCBS, did report on Sept. 16, 2001 that an unidentified investigator claimed eight men in Jersey City were "cheering on the roof when they saw the plane slam into the Trade Center," according to Politifact. Review of that news story showed no footage of Muslims cheering.

"Green Book" is a film based on the real-life story of a black pianist, Don Shirley, who hires a white man, Tony Lip, to provide security while he toured the South in 1962. The film's themes center around racism and tolerance as the men find common ground. The movie was produced by Universal Pictures, part of NBC Universal.

Vallelonga, who won a Golden Globe on Sunday for co-writing the film, is Tony Lip's son.

Some critics of Vallelonga's tweet highlighted the fact that Mahershala Ali, who played Shirley, is a Muslim himself. Ali also won a Golden Globe for "Green Book" for actor in a supporting role. He was previously the first Muslim to win an Oscar in 2017.

Representatives for Ali did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.