President Donald Trump marked the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on Friday in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Sept. 11)
The claim: Donald Trump helped with the emergency response and cleanup after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, contributing money and hiring workers
President Donald Trump has made many public comments about his memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some of his claims have become popular memes among his supporters.
“Two days after the 9/11 attack Trump was at Ground Zero with hundreds of workers that he paid of his own pocket to help find and identify victims. He’s been a patriot to the country he loves forever,” a viral memespread widelyacross Facebook reads.
Trump made a somewhat similar claim himself on Sept. 11, 2019, claiming that after seeing the attacks, he joined support efforts at Ground Zero alongside his employees.
“Soon after, I went down to Ground Zero with men who worked for me to try to help in any little way that we could,” the president said during remarks at the Pentagon. “We were not alone. So many others were scattered around trying to do the same. They were all trying to help.”
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There is no evidence that Trump helped with efforts at Ground Zero. Emergency responders who coordinated response efforts have cast doubt on the president’s claims. The image often used in viral memes is also not at Ground Zero.
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Donald Trump’s whereabouts on 9/11
In the hours after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, Trump gave an interview to a local New York radio station.
He said if he were president at the time, “I’d be taking a very, very tough line” in response.
“I mean, you know, most people feel they know at least approximately the group of people that did this and where they are. But boy would you have to take a hard line on this. This just can’t be tolerated,” the real estate and media mogul continued, as reported in 2016 by Politico.
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Trump also erroneously claimed that a building he owned, 40 Wall St., was now the tallest skyscraper in New York City. The building was slightly shorter than 70 Pine St., another building near 40 Wall St. in Lower Manhattan.
In the days following the attacks, emergency workers at Ground Zero sifted through rubble and debris, attempting to find the fallen.
“I was there for several months — I have no knowledge of his being down there,” Richard Alles, a New York Fire Department battalion chief during 9/11, told PolitiFact.
“There would be a record of it,” Alles continued. “Everybody worked under direct supervision of the police and fire department and the joint commander for emergency services.
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“Is there a chance he was ever down there by himself and I didn’t know it? It’s possible, but I know of no one who ever witnessed him there.”
There are no reports from the time that show that a large contingent of workers hired by or working alongside Trump were helping with the cleanup.
Several of the memes that make the claim about Trump visiting Ground Zero use a photo of the now-president taken in front of the New York Stock Exchange, several blocks away from the site.
The photo, taken on Sept. 18, 2001, was first published by the New York Daily News, which reported Trump said the city would rebuild.
Newsday published a report of Trump stating he was at Ground Zero on Sept. 13, showing that he did visit the site in the aftermath of the attacks, according to the New York Times.
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A German TV station also interviewed Trump several blocks from Ground Zero that same day, when Trump said, “Well, I have a lot of men down here right now,” and, “We have over 100 and we have about 125 coming. So we’ll have a couple hundred people down here.”
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Trump’s many 9/11 memories
The president has given several, sometimes conflicting, recollections of his experience with the 9/11 attacks. The claims all align with Trump’s history of exaggeration.
In November 2015, Trump made the unfounded claim that there were large groups of Muslim-Americans cheering the fall of the Twin Towers in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001. There is no evidence to support this claim.
Trump also claimed he saw the Twin Towers from his window in Trump Tower, a claim that has been scrutinized as unfeasible because the sites are 4 miles apart.
In January 2016, Trump recalled his memories of 9/11 after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, decried “New York values.”
“New York is a great place, it’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people. When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York,” Trump said in response to Cruz.
In April 2016, during a rally in Buffalo, N.Y., Trump claimed, “Everyone who helped clear the rubble — and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit — but I want to tell you: Those people were amazing.
“Clearing the rubble. Trying to find additional lives. You didn’t know what was going to come down on all of us — and they handled it,” he continued.
“Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers, and other first responders. And I was down there also, but I’m not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you,” Trump also said in July 2019, during the signing of a bill that would fund the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in perpetuity.
The White House did not offer any explanation of the president’s comments when contacted by USA TODAY.
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Our rating: Missing context
There is no evidence that Trump spent the claimed amount of time and money on 9/11 recovery efforts. Trump has also made several different claims on the subject, and first responders have cast doubt on the claim’s truthfulness. Based on our research, we rate this claim as MISSING CONTEXT because the meme’s claim may mislead without additional context.
Our fact-check sources:
- Politico, Sept. 10, 2016, What Trump and Clinton Did on 9/11
- Fox5NY on YouTube, Sept. 12, 2016, Donald Trump Calls Into WWOR/UPN 9 News on 9/11
- Forbes, Sept. 11, 2020, A Timeline Of Trump’s Misleading 9/11 Claims
- Getty Images, Sep. 18, 2001, Donald Trump speaks outside the New York Stock Exchange
- New York Times, July 29, 2019, Fact-Checking Trump’s Claim He ‘Spent a Lot of Time’ With 9/11 Responders
- N24 clip on YouTube, Jan. 22, 2012, Donald Trump at Ground Zero right after the terror attacks – Full Interview on 9/13/2001
- FactCheck.org, Jan. 24, 2017, Fact check: The controversy over Trump’s inauguration crowd size
- C-SPAN, April 16, 2016, Donald Trump Campaign Rally in Buffalo, New York
- FactCheck.org, Nov. 25, 2015, Fact check: Trump, Carson on 9/11 ‘celebrations’
- CNN, Nov. 27, 2015, Trump: ‘Many people jumped and I witnessed it’ on 9/11
- CBS News, Jan. 15, 2016, Trump defends New York values
- White House, July 29, 2019, Remarks by President Trump at Signing of H.R. 1327, an Act to Permanently Authorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
- PolitiFact, July 30, 2019, Donald Trump says he spent a lot time with 9/11 responders. Here are the facts
- Snopes, Sept. 11, 2018, Was Donald Trump at Ground Zero Searching for Survivors Two Days After 9/11 with Workers He Paid For?
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