"Forty Wall St. actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was, actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest," Trump said in an interview with WWOR-TV in New York when asked whether his building had been damaged. "And then when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest, and now it's the tallest."
Trump then described the "unbelievable sight" that his associates at 40 Wall St. had described to him, including two or three feet of heavy debris filling the streets for several blocks and thousands of people escaping over the Brooklyn Bridge. Later in the interview, Trump speculated that bombs must have gone off in the towers as the planes hit because he couldn't otherwise explain their collapse.
The interview was pulled from the Fox 5 New York archives at the request of Politico, which posted the clip online on Saturday. Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump frequently invokes 9/11 on the campaign trail, especially in defense of his proposal to temporarily ban the entry of Muslims and others from countries "compromised" by terrorism. During the Republican primary, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) attacked Trump's "New York values" during a debate, and Trump responded with an emotional remembrance of the terrorist attacks on his city.
"You had two 110-story buildings come crashing down. I saw them come down. Thousands of people killed," Trump said. "I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it. And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death — nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air."
But several of Trump's statements about what he witnessed that day appear to be greatly exaggerated or false. Trump has said that he watched from his apartment in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue as the second plane hit the World Trade Center and that he saw people jump to their deaths, even though the twin towers were more than four miles away. Trump has said that he went to Ground Zero to watch the clearing of the rubble and that he "helped a little bit," a claim others have challenged. Trump has said that he witnessed “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey publicly celebrating the attacks, a story that has been widely debunked. And Trump has been criticized for applying for and accepting a $150,000 federal grant given to businesses near the World Trade Center that were negatively affected by the attacks.
Amid criticism about accepting that grant money, Trump and his wife visited the National September 11 Memorial Museum for the first time in April, and Trump's foundation — which gets most of its funding from donors other than Trump — made a $100,000 donation to the museum.
On Sunday, which marked 15 years since the attacks, Trump attended a memorial service at Ground Zero and then briefly visited New York City Fire Department Rescue Company 1. He and his staff avoided interviews, even as Hillary Clinton experienced a health emergency, and Trump stayed uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter.
"Fifteen years ago, America suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history. Thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and innocent American children were murdered by radical Islamic terrorists," he said in a statement Sunday morning. "Today, we mourn for all the lives lost. We mourn for all the children who had to grow up without a mom or dad, and for all the parents who've had to struggle on without their children. We will never forget."