While the 9/11 families don't speak as a block, Debra Burlingame, whose brother was one of the pilots killed that day, and who speaks for many of the victims' families, claims President Obama put the proposed mosque at ground zero ahead of the 9/11 trial.
"I think the president absolutely has [his] priorities confused," Debra Burlingame of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America told Fox. "He should be focusing on putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts on trial and allowing them to plead guilty as they said they wanted to do, rather than lecturing the families of those firefighters and their children about religious tolerance at ground zero."
A White House spokesman said politics wasn't a factor in the president's comments about the proposed mosque near ground zero. Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said the president felt obligated to make sure all Americans are treated fairly, regardless of their religious views.
After strong resistance from New Yorkers, as well as the city's mayor, the White House stepped in to review the Justice Department's decision in November to send the 9/11 conspirators to federal court in lower Manhattan. In March, Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress a final decision on the trial venue was imminent - "weeks away." But earlier this summer, Fox News confirmed that a public announcement from the administration was not expected until after the midterm elections.
During one of his last news conferences before the Congressional break, Holder said, "No decision has been made with regard to, um, where the trials will be held but uh the conversations we are having are ongoing." Holder added, "And the political thing that you mentioned, the fact of the elections, is not a part of the conversations at all."
Nearly nine years after the attacks, none of the five defendants in U.S. military custody have been charged with the 9/11 plot and there is no firm date when a public decision on the venue will be announced.
Not all of the 9/11 families are against the mosque. But with the White House weighing in on the debate, Burlingame claimed it seemed to be an effort to silence some of the outspoken families who oppose it.
"I'd say that is an utter straw man and it is being used frankly to intimidate us into being quiet," Burlingame said. "we're talking ground zero now and we are not going to be quiet no way."