Editor’s Note: On the 18th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Donald Trump repeated his lie he visited the ruins of the World Trade Center with employees to “help in any way that we could.” When he ran for president in 2016, Michael Daly held him accountable for lying about America’s darkest day.
Six months after Donald Trump claimed to have lost “hundreds of friends” in the 9/11 attacks, his campaign continues to ignore a request from The Daily Beast that he name even one.
His silence becomes all the more shameful as we come to the 15th anniversary of the day 2,983 innocents were murdered in downtown Manhattan.
“If he has hundreds of friends, he should be able to tell us about them,” remarked a Port Authority police officer who has felt a duty to learn as much as he can about as many of the victims as possible. “If he can tell us about the hundreds of friends he lost, who they were, what kind of [people] they were, I might have some respect for him.”
The only time anybody can remember Trump being down at the September 11 Memorial and Museum was this April, when he made what seemed more like a campaign stop. Those who escorted him noted that he did not seem to pay particular attention to any of the names around the memorial pools or pictures of the victims displayed in the museum. His own math would say that at least a tenth of these people were his friends.
Trump’s then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, reacted as might be expected of anybody who had lost even one friend. A museum staffer later reported that Lewandowski had seemed greatly moved as he paused before a picture of Brian Kinney, who had been a passenger aboard the ill-fated United Airlines Flight 175. Kinney had been one of Lewandowski’s best friends and had married a young woman named Alison Hardy whom Lewandowski had dated in high school. Lewandowski and Hardy had subsequently become one of the many post-9/11 romances in which shared loss became love. They are now married.
Trump proceeded past the faces with no manifest interest. He breezed by a haunting photo of a woman standing at the edge of the monstrous charred hole that an airliner had punched in the uptown side of the North Tower. That is the same façade that faced Trump’s penthouse apartment four miles uptown.
Along with saying he lost hundreds of friends and that he saw news footage of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the attack (he was the only one to see that footage if so) Trump had spoken of standing at his apartment window and possessing such remarkable eyesight that he could see the jumpers four miles south. The woman in the photo—identified as Edna Cintron, an administrative assistant who had been working there to augment the income of her family flower shop in Harlem—is believed to have become one of those forced by the flames to leap.
To look at that photo of her in her final moments at the abyss is to know that telling lies about her or about those who perished with her are far more heinous lies than such a standard politician’s fib as saying you were always against the Iraq war when you started out saying on The Howard Stern Show that you supported it.
Trump did present the museum on his first and only visit there with his very first recorded charitable donation in connection with 9/11. The check was for $100,000, but it was drawn on his foundation, to which he has not contributed a penny in more than six years. He therefore continued a perfect record of not giving a penny of his own money to the memorial, not even the admission price, which the museum said was waived for him and his entourage, a saving of $24 for the adults, $18 in the case of a senior citizen such as Trump.
Trump then returned to his tower just up Fifth Avenue from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where so many 9/11 funerals were held. Trump is not known to have gone to any 9/11 funerals, even though the FDNY lost so many—343 members—that it worried it might not be able to fill services and so asked the public to attend.
The 9/11 funerals at the cathedral a few moments’ amble from Trump’s home included the one for FDNY Captain Terence Hatton, who was married to then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s executive assistant. Giuliani gave a tender eulogy, terming the loss a death in the family and calling Hatton the kind of man he would want his son to become.
“He was what real courage was all about,” Giuliani rightly said.
Anybody who listened to Giuliani that day could not have imagined that he would ever countenance, much less support, someone who sought to elevate himself by telling lies about 9/11.
Let us hope that Giuliani believes that Trump really did lose hundreds of friends on 9/11 and really was able to see jumpers from four miles away and really did see footage of cheering Muslims.
And let us hope that Giuliani is being completely truthful when he seeks to explain why there are no documented donations by Trump in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when Americans gave more than $1.2 billion.
On record, the self-proclaimed billionaire Trump gave less than the impoverished septuagenarian widow who arrived at a Ground Zero checkpoint on West Street with a small bag of ice, saying it was all she had to give the first responders.
Giuliani told the Republican National Convention that this man who works harder than anybody not to be anonymous and likes to put TRUMP on everything from buildings to steaks to doggie sweaters prefers to go unnamed when he gives to the families of fallen first responders and the victims of terrorism.
“Every time New York City suffered a tragedy, Donald Trump was there to help,” Giuliani said. “He’s not going to like my telling you this, but he did it anonymously.”
Giuliani called Trump a “man with a big heart” and went on, “When police officers were shot, when firefighters were hurt, when people were in trouble, he came forward and he helped, and he asked not to be mentioned. Well, I’m going to break my promise to him. I am going to mention it.”
Giuliani continued, “I am telling you this because I am sick and tired of the defamation of Donald Trump by the media and by the [Hillary] Clinton campaign. This is a good man and America should be sick and tired of their vicious, nasty campaign. You deserve to know this about your next president.”
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Donald Trump reportedly called The Howard Stern Show and pledged to donate $10,000 to the Twin Towers Fund. That is the charity Giuliani set up to benefit the families of first responders who perished on 9/11.
In his contribution this year to the memorial—his only documented 9/11-related donation—Trump used funds from the foundation that bears his name, but none of his own money of late. The same is true of all his other significant charitable donations that are not a failed real estate venture made via a donation into a tax deduction.
Despite his pledge, the Trump Foundation shows no donations at all to the Twin Tower Fund.
Giuliani would have us believe that Trump would make a very public $10,000 pledge on The Howard Stern Show, but ask that any donations he actually made to first responders remain anonymous.
On Sunday, Giuliani is expected to be at Ground Zero for the observance of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, just as he has been present for all the previous anniversaries.
Also expected is another Trump booster, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has attended every anniversary observance while in office. Christie prompted frowns at the 13th anniversary, when he stood laughing at Ground Zero with his then-aide, David Wildstein, two days into the five-day lane shutdown at the George Washington Bridge that led to the present trial in New Jersey federal court.
The frowns turned to grumbles at the 14th anniversary, when Christie sat chatting on his cellphone in his SUV while it blocked two busloads of families of fallen NYPD officers, keeping them from reaching their prearranged arrival point at Ground Zero.
As of Thursday night, Trump was not on the list of those expected to attend. The Port Authority cop who has tried to learn all he can about as many victims as possible and who really does prefer to remain anonymous says that he hopes Trump will stay away as the names of the dead are read once more.
“It would only serve as a distraction from the people and the families that day is about,” the cop said.