Former President Donald Trump defended his decision to host a golf tournament financed by Saudi Arabia at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey amid mounting criticism from the families of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
LIV Golf is financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi officials have denied any involvement by the crown prince. However, Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for its human rights abuses in Yemen and its crackdown on political dissidents at home, among other issues.
"They should have, as to the maniacs that did that horrible thing to our city, to the country, to the world. So, nobody's really been there," Trump said. "But I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we’re going to have a lot of fun and we’re going to celebrate."
The former president also said that he has "known these people for a long time in Saudi Arabia" and that they own substantial percentages of many American companies.
"Frankly, what they are doing for golf is so great, what they are doing for the players is so great. The salaries are going to go way up," Trump said.
9/11 Families Speak OutOn July 26, two days before the start of the LIV tournament, a group called 9/11 Justice Inc. published a 30-second advertisement titled "Never Forgive," in which family members of 9/11 victims vowed never to forgive the LIV Golf competitors for accepting "blood money" while stating that it was "disgusting" that the golf tournament would be taking place about 50 miles from ground zero.
The Saudi government has long denied any role in the attacks but families of the victims have filed lawsuits against the kingdom seeking billions of dollars
The hefty monetary prize has attracted a string of high-profile players from the PGA tour.
"The PGA was not loved by a lot of the players, as you know, for a long time," Trump told ESPN. "Now they have an alternative and nobody ever would have known it was going to be a gold rush like this."