President Donald Trump said on Monday that he “spent a lot of time” at Ground Zero in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, resurfacing an old claim he has touted repeatedly without evidence to back it up.
During a Rose Garden speech after signing a law to provide permanent financial aid to survivors and first responders who became ill after working at the site of the fallen Twin Towers, Trump told the audience he, too, was there.
“Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers and other first responders,” he said. “And I was down there also. But I am not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you.”
Trump’s statement ― a suggestion that he deserves some measure of credit for showing up at the site ― echoes previous remarks he’s made about Sept. 11, including at an April 2016 campaign stop in Buffalo, New York, where he told his supporters that he assisted with recovery efforts.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The vague implication that he was lending a hand, even placing himself in harm’s way, remains completely unsubstantiated.
He did, however, appear at Ground Zero.
According to an excerpt from local paper Newsday, Trump was interviewed from the scene, having been quoted in a story that ran on Sept. 14.
The workers are so worn out that they barely glance at the sight of Donald Trump, every hair in place and impeccably dressed in a black suit, pressed white shirt and red tie, walking into the plaza with his cellular phone to his ear.
“No, no. The building’s gone,” he says into the phone.
Trump also spoke to a German TV reporter on Sept. 13 and can be seen standing in Lower Manhattan. While he said in the interview that he had “a lot of men” helping out ― roughly 225 total ― PolitiFact was unable to corroborate that claim after researching it earlier this year.
Though Trump’s appearance at Ground Zero checks out, the president has a history of dubious or outright false statements about his connection to Sept. 11.
In a February 2016 GOP debate, Trump claimed to have “lost hundreds of friends” from the attacks, but his campaign did not provide a single name. Given that nearly 3,000 people died, the statement, if true, would mean the president personally knew a significant fraction of the victims.
At his Columbus, Ohio, rally on November 2015, Trump claimed that he watched from his apartment as people leapt from the crumbling towers and that he witnessed the second plane coming in.
Since Trump Tower is located in midtown, more than four miles away from where the World Trade Center stood, it’s highly unlikely Trump could have seen the destruction from his window.
Among the things that are known as fact about Trump’s response to the attacks on Sept. 11 is that he immediately bragged in an interview with New Jersey’s WWOR-TV that his building had just become the tallest in the city since the Twin Towers had fallen.
Trump also applied for and received $150,000 in federal recovery grants intended for small businesses impacted by the Sept. 11 attacks, a New York Daily News investigation discovered, even though his properties were not damaged.