To Letterman's Irritation, Trump Denounces Ground Zero Mosque as 'Insensitive,' 'Somebody Knocked Down the World Trade Center'

Earning applause from the audience inside Manhattan's Ed Sullivan Theater for Wednesday's Late Show, Donald Trump gave David Letterman his take on placing a new mosque near Ground Zero: “I think it's very insensitive to build it there. I think it's not appropriate, a I think it's insensitive and it shouldn't be built there.” Letterman frowned, prompting Trump to point out to the audience: “I don't know if he agrees.”

Letterman eventually asked “what about the notion” of when the “pilgrims came over...looking for religious expression? And as far as I've always known, that's a fundamental building block of what makes this country great.” Trump agreed, but “it's caused such a storm that the people doing it would make so much good will” if they moved it to a different location.

When Trump repeated his point, to more applause, about how “it's very insensitive to build it there and I think they should go someplace else,” a befuddled Letterman wondered: “Describe for me what insensitivity is manifested if it's built there?” And Letterman fretted: “Does this suggest that we are in fact officially at war with Muslims?”

To which, Trump observed: “Well, somebody knocked down the World Trade Center.”

Letterman also sputtered: “I don't believe, not having read the Koran, I don't believe that part of that belief, that pursuit is here in your face, take a look at this, what do you think? What are you going to do?” Trump, on to promote a new season of The Apprentice on NBC, retorted: “Well, somebody's blowing us up. Somebody's blowing up buildings, and somebody's doing lots of bad stuff.”

The Late Show Web site has a video of a portion of the Ground Zero mosque discussion.

Audio: MP3 clip

From the Wednesday, September 1 Late Show with David Letterman:
DAVID LETTERMAN: Now, tell me everything I need to know -- everything a reasonable person should understand about the rebuilding that's taking place at the former site of the twin towers, and the construction of, possible construction of a mosque down there. What do you know about it? What do you understand about it? And what are smart people, what should we be thinking of.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, the rebuilding is going very slowly. It should have gone faster. I've always said what we should do is rebuild the World Trade Center exactly as it was. You know, it was never a very popular building architecturally until it went down and when it went down we all felt so terrible and all of a sudden people started loving it. I came out and said we should rebuild it in exactly the same form, but a little bit taller and a lot stronger and a lot of people loved that idea, but that's not what they're doing.

As far as the mosque is concerned, I think it's very insensitive to build it there. I think it's not appropriate, a I think it's insensitive and it shouldn't be built there. (Applause) [pause as Letterman frowns] I don't know if he agrees

LETTERMAN: Well, I don't know -- I'm so ignorant about stuff. What about the notion -- I can remember, I can't remember but, remember when the pilgrims came over? Folks, remember when the pilgrims were here? And the puritans, and they came seeking religious freedom, and freedom from religious persecution, looking for religious expression. And as far as I've always known, that's a fundamental building block of what makes this country great.

TRUMP: I agree. And, you know, it's called very simply freedom of religion. And I would agree with that 100 percent. In this case, it's caused such a storm that the people doing it would make so much good will if they said, “hey, listen, we want to make everybody happy, including ourselves. We're going to pick a site that's a little further away.” Everybody would be happy and I think it would be such incredible good will. I would say if they wanted to do it from a PR standpoint it would be the greatest thing they could do. But I don't see it happening. I see the developer, he's pretty tough, and he wants to build it there. He's get no money. He's got a lot of problems. But I think the mosque is a real big issue in this city and in this country and I think it's very insensitive to build it there and I think they should go someplace else. (Applause)

LETTERMAN: Insensitive, and describe for me what insensitivity is manifested if it's built there.

TRUMP: Well, I just think there's such ire. There's such -- I've never seen anything quite like it. I mean, I goy that site because I have a big building down there, 40 Wall Street, and the level of animosity and hatred and all of the things that this mosque is engendering, it's very inappropriate. And I'm like you, I believe freedom of religion, but at the same time, sometimes you have to make a turn. It shouldn't be forced upon them. If they did it of their own volition it would be such a popular thing for them.

LETTERMAN: If they did what?

TRUMP: If they moved it to a different site.

LETTERMAN: The notion -- does this suggest that we are in fact officially at war with Muslims? Is that what this suggests?

TRUMP: Well, somebody knocked down the World Trade Center.

LETTERMAN: Yes. No denying that, and they were Muslims, but they weren't, it's not, how do I want to express this? We're not at -- we're at war with those people and they happen to be Muslims. We're not at war with Muslims. (Applause)

TRUMP: Well, I would say that's right, David, I would say that's right. And whether you like it or not, there's a lot of people in this country that are just absolutely -- you see the people who died in the World Trade Center, when you see their mothers and their fathers and their wives standing there just weeping and crying because of the mosque, I just think it would be a great thing if they would move it, if they would voluntarily say, “you know, we're going to move this.” I think they would engender, I mean, it would be so good for them.

LETTERMAN: Yes, but I don't believe, not having read the Koran, I don't believe that part of that belief, that pursuit is here in your face, take a look at this, what do you think? What are you going to do?

TRUMP: Well, somebody's blowing us up. I mean, somebody's blowing up buildings, and somebody's doing lots of bad stuff, David. And, you know, we're at war, which as you know because you and I had this discussion two times ago when I was on the show. We should have never been in Iraq in the first place....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center