(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump said he can “understand the feelings” but doesn’t grasp the position of the grieving families of 9/11 victims protesting the LIV Golf Invitational, a lavish, Saudi-backed global contest soon to be hosted at one of his golf courses, in a Monday interview with The Wall Street Journal.
On Friday, Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, will host the third event for LIV Golf, funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, as pressure for the former president to halt the tournament mounts from coalitions of the family members of those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I don’t know much about the 9/11 families, I don’t know what is the relationship to this, and their very strong feelings, and I can understand their feelings,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “I can’t really comment on that because I don’t know exactly what they’re saying, and what they’re saying who did what.”
Trump National Doral Miami will host another LIV event later this year.
The families have taken issue with Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks — most of the attackers were Saudi nationals, but the Saudi government has consistently denied involvement — only for the country to now engage in “sportswashing,” a recent trend that critics call the sanitation of a country’s reputation by engaging in high-profile sporting events.
One of the coalitions of families, 9/11 Justice, on Tuesday released an advertisement featuring images of Trump’s Bedminster course — with coalition members questioning the former president’s scheduled plans to host the splashy sports event.
“This golf tournament is taking place 50 miles from Ground Zero,” a man in the ad says.
“It’s disgusting. Worse than a slap in the face,” says another.
“How much money to turn your back on your own country?” a woman asks.
9/11 Justice is slated to hold a protest at the start of the three-day tournament on Friday, just down the street from the Bedminster golf club.
Another coalition, 9/11 Families United, held a press conference near the Bedminster club on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican, authored an op-ed in The Hill where he denounced the American golfers who are taking part in the Saudi golf tournament, saying the athletes are “selling themselves” out to the kingdom.
In a tweet, Roy applauded some of the 9/11 victims’ family members for calling out LIV Golf “for its insidious selling out to a terrorist-funding sovereign.”
9/11 Families United called on President Joe Biden last month to make sure “his administration’s engagement does not neglect long-overdue accountability,” ahead of his recent trip to Saudi Arabia.
A Biden administration spokesperson told ABC News that “our hearts are always with the 9/11 survivors and families who are suffering” and noted the president has taken steps toward accountability.
“President Biden made a commitment to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law and to assist these families in their work to seek full accountability regarding the declassification of 9/11 documents,” the spokesperson said.
Trump had maintained a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince while he was in office, even continuing business ties with the kingdom upon leaving office.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.
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