The fire chief who spent months at Ground Zero after 9/11 came out against Donald Trump after the president’s claim that he “was there” at the dangerous epicenter of the terrorist attack.
Trump drew widespread criticism after his claim while signing a bill that ensures compensation for 9/11 first responders on Monday. As The Daily Mail noted, Trump seemed to turn the attention on himself, claiming that he was among those down at Ground Zero after the attacks, though clarified that he was not a first responder himself.
“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 said at the White House event.
Trump’s claim was immediately disputed by Richard Alles, the now-retired deputy chief of the New York Fire Department who spent months as part of the crew that cleaned up Ground Zero and searched for the remains of those killed. Alles said there was no way Trump could have played any significant role at Ground Zero, which was closed off to the public after the terrorist attacks and remained that way for months.
“I spent many months there myself, and I never witnessed him,” Alles said in an interview with the New York Times.
“He was a private citizen at the time. I don’t know what kind of role he could have possibly played.”
As The Daily Mail noted, a Newsday article published after the attack noted that Trump did stir some attention when he went to check out Ground Zero three days after the terrorist attacks. The report noted how workers there were barely bothered to notice Trump, who seemed very out of place as he was “impeccably dressed in a black suit, pressed white shirt and red tie, walking into the plaza with his cellular phone to his ear.”
A NYT fact check you may have been waiting for: "According to Richard Alles, a retired deputy chief with the New York Fire Department, Mr. Trump was not a presence at ground zero." https://t.co/y2B7QfPl54
— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) July 29, 2019
Donald Trump has stirred controversy in the past regarding his statements about 9/11. He gave an interview to a New Jersey news channel in the immediate wake of the attack in which he appeared to brag that Trump Tower was now the tallest building in the city. As The Washington Post noted, Trump’s claim was not true.
The Huffington Post even compiled a comprehensive list of all the divisive comments Trump has made about 9/11, including his widely disputed claim that he saw thousands of people in Jersey City celebrating the attack and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.