Two days after Donald Trump claimed that he “lost hundreds of friends” at the World Trade Center as a result of the 9/11 attack, his campaign continued to ignore a Daily Beast request that he name even one.
With silence comes the possibility that Trump told the most reprehensible lie of the campaign, just a few breaths from when he called both Sen. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush liars.
By his math, Trump is trying to tell us that at least one in 10 of the 2,983 who died on 9/11 were his friends.
“If he has hundreds of friends, he should be able to tell us about them,” said a Port Authority police officer who never talks about how many comrades he lost. “If he can tell us about the hundreds of friends he lost, who they were, what kind of person they were, I might have some respect for him.”
The PA cop—who has sought to learn all he could about every single person who died in addition to the many he personally knew—wonders why nobody has seen Trump at the September 11 Memorial and Museum.
The cop also wonders why nobody seems to recall seeing Trump at the seemingly endless funerals that followed the attack. The FDNY, which had lost 343 members, had so many funerals and memorials in those dark days that the city asked citizens to attend them to fill the churches.
“I don’t remember Trump at any of them,” the cop noted. “Not even the ones that were held at St. Patrick’s, which were right down the block.”
The cop meant St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is just six blocks down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower, where The Donald resides and works.
Among the many funerals held at the cathedral after 9/11 were those for FDNY Captains Patrick Brown and Terry Hatton, as well as Firefighters Michael Boyle and David Arce. Trump does not seem to have attended any.
Trump was seen at Ground Zero not long after the attack, saying New York was still in business. That business included his building at 40 Wall St., just down the block from the New York Stock Exchange.
“I make a great deal of money from 40 Wall St.,” Trump once wrote about the property. “Aside from owning the most beautiful building in lower Manhattan, I have the added attraction of owning a particularly lucrative one.”
Trump was also on record saying that none of his properties were damaged in the attack.
But, as the New York Daily News has reported, Trump accepted a $150,000 federal grant that was part of a program meant to assist small businesses affected by 9/11.
That becomes all the more disgraceful if the news site The Smoking Gun is right in suggesting that in the four years after the attack, Trump did not make a single contribution to assist the victims of 9/11, hundreds of friends or no.
The Smoking Gun reports that the records of the Donald J. Trump Foundation show a single donation in 2006 of $1,000 to a “detox” Scientology program of uncertain value for first responders.
Trump did pledge $10,000 to the Twin Tower fund while calling into The Howard Stern Show, but an online search produces no record of him actually making it. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks has told the Daily Mail that Trump “has donated close to half a million dollars to organizations as a result of the 9/11 tragedy including the American Red Cross and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Fund.”
Hicks said this was “in addition to a total of $102 million donated to hundreds of charitable foundations over a relatively short period of time, many of which helped people affected by 9/11.”
That $102 million may include land Trump donated to New York state after he abandoned plans to build a golf course. Trump enjoyed a considerable tax deduction. Hicks has termed the donation “a $100 million gift to the state.”
Meanwhile, Trump offered to the press his opinions about the kind of memorial that should be built at Ground Zero, but seems to have contributed not a dime to building it.
He kicked in not even the price of admission to the 9/11 museum.
He does not appear to have attended any of the anniversary observances or to have participated in the reading of names, which by his account included hundreds of his buddies.
If he has been to see the names inscribed at the memorial pools, he has been uncharacteristically inconspicuous.
He did make it to a Yankees game in the month after 9/11, where he had a prime seat. And he served the following month as grand marshal at a boat parade in Florida, where folks down there apparently mistook him as a symbol of New York’s resilience.
Whatever Trump did give to the victims of 9/11 does not appear in the records of his foundation but would almost certainly be recorded in his tax returns. Trump tweeted a photo of himself signing his latest tax returns. He has promised to release them along with returns from previous years.
He has said forthrightly that the tax returns show he pays as little tax as he legally can. That would presumably include taking deductions for any and all charitable donations, notably the supposed half-million.
So his continuing failure to make good on his pledge to release the returns may have less to do with how little he paid in taxes than in how little he gave to charity.
Maybe he will surprise us. Maybe he really is “an ardent philanthropist,” as he has claimed. The returns should clear that up, just as the texts of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches at Goldman Sachs should make clear what it was she said.
At least Hillary could rightly claim that she lost a very good friend on 9/11, FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge.
Judge had been placed next to her at the White House prayer breakfast held in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He had spoken to the then-first lady not about sin and redemption but about how marvelous it was to be at the White House at all.
“He took more joy in it than a child,” she later recalled. “I had to tell him about everything he saw.”
By saying how lucky he felt to be there, he was telling her how lucky she was, scandal or no. She still felt a bond with him three years later, and she arrived at his funeral as a mourner. She was clearly surprised when she was asked to speak. She explained why she accepted.
“Because he was my friend,” she said.
In a rare spontaneous moment such as to make you wish she were not often so self-defeatingly calculating, Hillary stood by the coffin and spoke to the packed church.
“I was called and told that Father Mychal Judge had died doing what he was called to do,” she said. “And all of a sudden the enormity of the tragedy became very personal.”
She continued, “What a bearer of light. He lit up the White House as he lit up every place where he saw himself. Father, you gave us so many gifts when you were alive, gifts of laughter and love.”
If Trump actually lost hundreds of friends on 9/11, the public record does not show him speaking in such terms of any of them.
But he was quick to speak of the supposed hundreds during Saturday’s debate among the Republicans seeking to be so lucky as to become the next occupant of the White House.
If Trump was lying, we are left to wonder what kind of person would seek to boost himself in a political debate by claiming a bogus connection to innocents who were murdered in the worst attack in our nation’s history.
And what kind of electorate would just shrug at such a falsehood?
And what kind of press would largely not even hear the shameful lie and instead latch onto what he then said in the very same breath?
“The World Trade Center went down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe,” Trump continued.
Nobody knows that better than the people who died there, but Trump was not speaking on their behalf. His voice did not rise toward fury out of pain and grief. He was trying to pummel an opponent.
On Tuesday, Rep. Pete King compared Trump to “a drunken uncle at a party.” Only Trump never drinks. He is intoxicated with himself.
Trump’s supporters—and there are an astonishing number in South Carolina—often say admiringly that he will say anything. They might consider why he says it. He does not speak because he is compelled to say what he believes.
He speaks because he is compelled to makes himself feel bigger in the moment, even if it means committing what there seems to be only one word to describe.
“A sacrilege,” the PA cop said.