Businessman Donald Trump, the poll leader in the race to be Republican presidential nominee, has drawn fire again by claiming that "thousands and thousands" of Arabs in New Jersey cheered as the World Trade Centre's Twin Towers fell after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks.
Mr Trump made his remarks during a campaign rally on Saturday and stood by them in an interview on Sunday during a political talk show.
"I watched when the World Trade Centre came tumbling down," he told supporters at the rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday. "And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down."
When George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's Sunday programme This Week told him that police said no such event took place, Mr Trump repeated his claims, saying: "It was on television; I saw it."
“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations,” he said.
Reports of Muslim residents in New Jersey celebrating the attacks were widely debunked, but the claims continue to be repeated by conservative commentators, including talk show host Debbie Schlussel.
The backlash to Mr Trump’s comments was strong, from Democrats and Republicans alike.
"Either @realDonaldTrump has memory issues or willfully distorts the truth, either of which should be concerning for the Republican Party, " said Steven Fulop, the Democratic mayor of Jersey City, which has a population of 15,000 Muslims.
Rival Republican candidate George Pataki, who was governor of New York during the 9/11 attacks, tweeted: "Not sure what luxury spider-hole @realDonaldTrump was hiding in on Sept 11 but I saw Americans come together that day."
Controversy has followed Mr Trump in recent days after he suggested in the wake of the Paris attacks that there should be surveillance of mosques and a database of Muslims. He also called for waterboarding, a form of torture that simulates drowning which was used in interrogations by agents of the US governemnt until recently, to be brought back by the US government .
He later clarified his remarks about the database, saying that there should be a register of refugees.
In another incident, Mr Trump approved of how a demonstrator from the Black Lives Matter movement was pushed, kicked and punched by Mr Trump’s supporters at the rally in Alabama.
“Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Mr Trump told a Fox TV show on Sunday. “It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”