Comedian Jon Stewart called out members of Congress for not attending a hearing on continued funding for the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund.
What did he say?
The former “Daily Show” host has for years championed the cause of the survivors of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, calling attention to the diseases contracted by first responders and others who breathed in the smoke from the Twin Towers.
“Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders,” Stewart said emotionally. “And in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak — to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country, and it is a stain on this institution.”
Stewart said that the “disrespect” shown by Congress to the survivors who came to the hearing was “utterly unacceptable.” More than 150 firefighters who responded to the Sept. 11 attacks have died after the fact from health complications. Thousands more first responders and people who were near in proximity to the World Trade Center have health complications thought to be caused by exposure to chemicals during the attack.
The September 11 Victims Compensation Fund gives federal assistance to survivors who can prove that they have suffered due to health problems contracted during the attack. It is currently running out of funding.
“There is not an empty chair on that stage,” Stewart said, “that didn’t tweet out ‘Never forget the heroes of 9/11. Never forget their bravery. Never forget what they did what they gave to this country.’ Well, here they are,” he gestured to the survivors sitting behind him. “And where are they?”
Stewart also criticized Congress for not passing legislation to help the survivors. “They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs,” he said. “Eighteen years later, do yours!”
But Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) defended the actions of his colleagues, saying that half the seats were empty because Stewart and the survivors were only testifying before a subcommittee. “My subcommittee, every single member on my side, which is eight of us, have been here today,” he said. However, Cohen also admitted that some members could be absent due to conflicting commitments.
JON STEWART Goes OFF On Congress During 9/11 Hearing