Just before signing into law a permanent extension of the 9/11 victims compensation fund on Monday, President Donald Trump jokingly told the 9/11 first responders in attendance that they shouldn’t worry if the Rose Garden stage collapsed underneath them because they wouldn’t fall “very far.”
After suggesting that he was directly involved with the cleanup efforts at Ground Zero immediately after the Sept. 11 terror attacks—a claim that has been disputed by those at the scene at the time—the president wrapped up the signing ceremony by inviting a group of first responders and their families to join him.
“Now I am going to sign this bill into law, and I don’t know if this stage will hold it, but if it doesn’t, we are not falling very far,” Trump declared, motioning down towards the structure.
He continued: “I would like to ask the families, and I would also like to ask the First Responders to stand up. And we’ll give this stage a shot. Let’s see how well built—Made in America, let’s see how well-built it is. OK?”
The jokey remark was especially tone-deaf considering how thousands of people died when the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers collapsed. And it didn’t take long for people to express outrage and disbelief over the inappropriate quip.
“You still got it, Donny,” comedian Patton Oswalt sarcastically noted on Twitter.
“What kind of person ‘jokes’ about a structure collapsing and people falling while signing a bill to compensate victims from a horrific traumatic event in which a structure collapsed and people fell to their death?” political scientist Brian Klaas wondered.
“Get it? Because they might be nervous about structures collapsing, ha ha!” Vox’s David Roberts tweeted.
Muslim-Americans, meanwhile, contrasted the president’s remarks with his recent condemnation of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for supposedly downplaying the 9/11 terror attacks, asking how folks would react if Omar, or any Muslim woman, would have made this joke.