Fact-checking a mixed bag of accusations on Trump and 9/11
A Facebook post levels eight accusations against President Donald Trump and his comments around the 9/11 attacks, with mixed results for accuracy.
The post says:
• Trump gave "NO MONEY" to 9/11 charities;
• "Bragged" about his building being the tallest after the Twin Towers fell;
• Opposed construction for the 9/11 memorial;"Lied" about housing people at 40 Wall St. after the attacks;
• Claimed he " ‘helped a little bit’ in clearing the rubble;"
• Claimed he saw bodies falling from his Midtown apartment ("impossible");
• Claimed that 9/11 would not have happened if he were president;
• Once tweeted, "I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th."
Trump’s tweet about haters and losers really did happen. The others claims on the list required more digging. We found some of the claims were accurate while others were clearly exaggerated.
We first noticed the post after Trump signed a permanent extension of the Victim Compensation Fund for 9/11 rescue workers. During a Rose Garden ceremony with first responders, Trump said, "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." If Trump spent significant time at the site, there is no documentation to prove it.
The Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Says Trump "gave NO MONEY to 9/11 charities after the terrorist attacks"
We could not find a record of Trump donating to 9/11 charities after the attacks (though he did donate to the 9/11 Museum amid the 2016 campaign). Trump did pledge to make a $10,000 donation to the Twin Towers Fund as part of a drive led by Howard Stern, the New York Daily News reported.
The office of the New York City comptroller looked into donors to the Twin Towers Fund and the New York City Public/Private Initiatives, Inc., within a year of the 9/11 attacks. (The probe was limited to a year because most donations came in the immediate months of 9/11, the office has said.)
The review showed Trump did not make a $10,000 donation to those funds, the New York Daily News reported.
The White House and Trump campaign did not comment.
Says Trump "bragged about his building 40 Wall St. being ‘the tallest’ immediately after the towers fell"
This is accurate. Trump first made this claim when he was asked about the condition of the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street during a live TV interview the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001.
"40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest — and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second tallest. And now it’s the tallest," Trump said.
In actuality, once the Twin Towers were decimated, the 71-story Trump Building at 40 Wall Street was the second-tallest building still standing in Lower Manhattan, according to the Washington Post. It was 25 feet shorter than the building at 70 Pine Street. That’s not to say that 40 Wall Street has never been the tallest in Lower Manhattan: It was for two years in the 1930s, before Trump owned it.
Currently, Trump’s building on 40 Wall Street is the 32nd-tallest building either erected or under development in New York City.
Says Trump "strongly opposed the construction of the 9/11 memorial"
Trump opposed certain design elements of the new One World Trade Center, not construction of the memorial itself. News stories show that Trump was opposed to the design of "Freedom Tower," the 1,776-ft skyscraper that eventually became known as One World Trade Center, a towering, symbolic structure to replace the twin towers. Trump in 2005 criticized the design as "skeletal" with "wrong angles," and said he wanted the World Trade Center to be rebuilt, only "taller" and "stronger."
"If we rebuild the World Trade Center in the form of a skeleton, Freedom Tower, the terrorists win," Trump said in a May 2005 in Trump Tower. "We want to rebuild the World Trade Center as the World Trade Center but better — a little bit taller, a lot stronger, just plain better."
Today, in addition to the landmark tower that draws worldwide visitors, Ground Zero is home to 2 World Trade Center, 3 World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, a transportation hub and the 9/11 Memorial Museum and Plaza as well as the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center, which is under construction.
Trump’s foundation made a $100,000 donation to the 9/11 Museum in 2016, according to the Washington Post.
Says Trump "lied about housing people at 40 Wall St. after the attacks"
This appears to reference what Trump said about a $150,000 grant his company received from a recovery program set up for small businesses for his building at 40 Wall Street.
To be eligible, small firms had to prove they had been "physically or economically damaged by the attacks, and located on or south of 14th Street in Lower Manhattan," PolitiFact reported in 2016.
Trump told TIME in 2016 that the grant "was probably a reimbursement for the fact that I allowed people, for many months, to stay in the building, use the building and store things in the building…."
However, the public portion of his company’s grant application makes no mention of providing shelter.
We requested a copy of the application for a grant from the 9/11 business recovery grant program administered by the Empire State Development Corporation. Much of the copy we received back was blacked out. However, the visible portion showed a 2002 revised application. It said the economic losses stemmed from rent loss, cleanup and repair. The application was signed by Nancy Lara, who worked for the Trump organization at the time. The documents also showed there were 20 employees including the owner. (This matches what a New York Daily News article in 2016 showed too.) A $150,000 payment was approved.
Says Trump "claimed he ‘helped a little bit’ in clearing the rubble (no evidence to support)"
We were not able to verify that Trump helped in cleanup efforts.
Trump claimed that he assisted in cleanup efforts during the 2016 campaign. "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," Trump said.
Trump was near Ground Zero soon after the attacks took place, but the White House has not corroborated the claim that he helped clear out rubble.
Richard Alles, a New York Fire Department retired deputy chief, was on the scene after the attacks. He told us he "was there for several months" and had "no knowledge of (Trump) being down there."
Says Trump "claimed he saw bodies falling from the Towers from his Midtown apartment (impossible)"
Trump did make this claim, and fact-checkers have been skeptical given the distance to his apartment in Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.
"I have a window in my apartment that specifically was aimed at the World Trade Center because of the beauty of the whole downtown Manhattan. And I watched as people jumped, and I watched the second plane come in," Trump said at an Ohio rally in 2015.
But Trump’s midtown apartment is about four miles away from where the Twin Towers stood, according to CNN.
On the day of the attacks, Trump described what he saw from his office in an interview with WWOR-TV.
"I have a window that looks directly at the World Trade Center, and I saw this huge explosion. I was with a group of people," Trump said. "I really couldn’t even believe it."
Says Trump "claimed that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened if he were president"
This is largely accurate. Trump said on "Fox News Sunday" in 2015 that he didn’t blame former President George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks, but "there’s a good chance" the perpetrators wouldn’t have been in the country if he were president.
On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump implied Bush bears some responsibility for the events that took place.
"When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time," Trump said in an interview on Bloomberg TV in 2015.
Says Trump "once tweeted, ‘I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th.’"
This checks out. Trump tweeted those words on the 9/11 anniversary in 2013. He also mentioned "haters and losers" for Memorial Day in 2015 and Veterans Day in 2013, among many other occasions over the years.
“@realDonaldTrump: I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2013
For other PolitiFact coverage, check out: