Once Again, Trump Tries To Insert Himself Into Other People’s Heroism

Once again, President Trump can't help but make something meant to recognize real American heroes all about himself.

On Monday, President Trump signed into law the long-overdue bill that will effectively guarantee lifetime funding to the compensation fund for first responders who worked at Ground Zero in the days, weeks, and months after the September 11th attacks. In and of itself, that was a good thing and especially appreciated considering that it is finally the end of a nearly two decade long battle by those first responders and those who support them to ensure that they are covered for the illnesses they continue to suffer from thanks to the time they spent at Ground Zero.

Even as he did so, though, Trump couldn’t help but engage in self-aggrandizement and make claims that appear to be verifiably false:

Donald Trump has always had a bit of Walter Mitty in him. But on Monday morning, in a speech to first responders and others impacted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he took his fantastical memory of himself to new and not-at-all-appropriate heights.

“I was down there also, but I’m not considering myself a first responder,” Trump said. “But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you.”

Uh, what?

Let’s be clear about what Trump is doing here: He is associating himself — very closely — with the men and women who were the first to respond to planes being crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. People who continue to suffer health issues due to their jobs.

Not surprisingly, Trump’s claims are not supported by any credible evidence:

So, what was Trump actually doing on September 11, 2001?One thing he was doing was getting on the phone with WWOR’s Alan Marcus to talk about the attacks and their aftermath. It was in that interview that Trump said this about a property — 40 Wall Street — that he owned:

“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.”Yeah. He really said that.

And as Politico’s Michael Kruse noted in a story about what Trump (and Hillary Clinton) were doing on September 11, 2001, Trump was a bystander on the day — watching the events unfold from his offices (and home) at Trump Tower, which was several miles from Ground Zero.

Writes Kruse:“In the immediate aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of the country, Trump talked publicly mostly about the buildings, and his buildings, and market ramifications and the character and resiliency of the citizens of the city where he’s lived almost his entire life. But reporters then had only so much reason to ask him about issues of national security or foreign policy.”

Several days after the attacks, Trump did an interview with a German news station just a few blocks from Ground Zero.

And according to a Newsday report on September 14, Trump had been spotted at Ground Zero the previous day:

“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.”

The New York Times did some fact-checking of its own:

According to Richard Alles, a retired deputy chief with the New York Fire Department, Mr. Trump was not a presence at ground zero.

“I spent many months there myself, and I never witnessed him,” Mr. Alles, who was at the Rose Garden event on Monday, said in an interview. “He was a private citizen at the time. I don’t know what kind of role he could have possibly played.”

Mr. Alles said he had vivid memories of meeting Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who became an integral part of passing the bill after the attacks. Ms. Maloney did not attend the event at the White House on Monday.

Mr. Trump’s claims about where he was and what he was doing during the attacks date back years, with him often inserting and removing details along the way, Timothy O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” said in an interview.

“Donald Trump was absolutely not a first responder by any standard definition,” Mr. O’Brien said. “If we’re defining it as the first wave of people who arrived at ground zero to provide help, he was not in that wave.”

On the day of the attack, Mr. Trump called into WWOR-TV to say that he had a window in Trump Tower that looked directly over the World Trade Center.

As the buildings burned, the show’s anchors praised his real estate prowess in a wide-ranging interview. Mr. Trump said that if he had decided to run for president in 2000, he would have taken a “hard line” on the perpetrators, and that he had “somebody down there” near the attack who had witnessed at least 10 people jumping out of the World Trade Center towers.


By the time Mr. Trump hit the campaign trail in 2015, those initial stories had evolved into a mishmash of unproven claims: At a rally, he said he had watched people jump with his own eyes — possibly through a “solid gold” telescope — at Trump Tower. That claim is unproven, and Trump Tower is about four miles from the World Trade Center site. He also shared another widely debunked claimthat Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating after the planes hit.

In the days after the attack, Mr. Trump ventured outside of Trump Tower to provide commentary, which largely focused on real estate and estimating the building costs of recovery. In an interview with a German television station on Sept. 13, 2001, Mr. Trump was asked if he would be personally involved in the recovery effort.

“I have a lot of men down here right now,” Mr. Trump said. “We have over 100 and we have 125 coming. So we’ll have a couple of hundred people down here.” He added: “We will be involved in some form helping to reconstruct.”

On Sept. 14, 2001, a Newsday report noted that Mr. Trump was in the vicinity of ground zero speaking on his cellphone: “No, no. The building’s gone,” Mr. Trump said over the phone.

photo taken of him on Sept. 18, 2001, has been used in a widely circulated meme that claims Mr. Trump personally traveled to ground zero with hundreds of workers to help uncover victims.

Mr. O’Brien, the author, said the size of the Trump Organization at the time was “a little bit over a dozen people,” which would have made it impossible to send hundreds of people to participate in the relief effort.

At the time, Mr. Trump had a large number of casino workers based in Atlantic City, but there is no documented evidence of him marshaling his resources to aid in the relief effort.

“He’s very comfortable propagandizing that event for political purposes,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Even in the face of tragedy, he can’t help but self-promote and self-aggrandize.”

Also unproven: the donations Mr. Trump said he gave to charities involved in the relief effort. In 2016, Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, said there was no evidence that a $10,000 donation pledge that Mr. Trump made after the attacks had ever been given to a charity called the Twin Towers Fund.

This isn’t the first time that the President has made false or at least unverifiable claims about what he witnessed on September 11, 2001. As a candidate, and indeed shortly after the attacks themselves, he claimed to have seen people dancing in New Jersey celebrating the attacks, a claim that has been circulated among anti-Muslim agitators for years but which has never been verified:

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s most incendiary use of the terrorist attacks as a political point was made at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Ala., in 2015.

Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, told supporters that on the day of the attack, in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Mr. Trump said the celebrants were Muslim. Mr. Trump continued to use the talking point throughout his campaign, even as reports of such celebrations were repeatedly debunked.

Pointing to reporting from The Washington Post in 2001 that said the police had looked into allegations of celebrations, Mr. Trump expressed vindication, and mocked the physical disability of a Post reporter whom he said corroborated his belief.

This President has always been a liar and a fabulist, so it’s neither surprising nor shocking that he would be lying and exaggerating about this as well. At the same time, though, the sight of seeing him essentially engaging in what amounts to stolen valor while signing a bill designed to help people who are suffering to this day from cancer and other diseases thanks to months of exposure to the remnants of the World Trade Center is really quite sickening.

Instead of making the story on Monday about the first responders and their families, Trump once again chose to make the story about himself. I do not claim to be a mental health expert, but this seems to be clearly indicative of some kind of narcissistic personality disorder that requires him to place himself in situations where he regularly makes claims that he doesn’t need to. He could have used Monday to be bipartisan and emphasize, as his two immediate predecessors have, the sacrifices of the first responders, he had to make the day about himself. On some level that’s not just outrageous, it’s also pretty sad and pathetic.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Policing, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    The only thing worse than this shameless coward, this draft-dodger, this gutter-dwelling two-bit fascist con-man trying to pass himself off as a hero, is the utter imbecility of his drooling supporters nodding along, “Yup, yup, it was all orange jeebus! He was saving lives while imaginary Muslims in New Jersey were praising Osama.” Where’s Lindsay Graham? I’m sure he remembers it all vividly.

  2. Kathy says:

    Haven’t you seen photos of Dennison holding the flag next to Neil Armstrong in the Sea of Tranquility?

  3. michael reynolds says:

    No wonder he gets along with Kim Jong Un, all the Kims are capable of endless holes-in-one and amazing feats of physical courage. Just like cadet Bone Spur.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    He was part of the first wave of people helping at Ground Zero (he wasn’t) while he was also on TV bragging about how the towers collapsing meant that his building was now the tallest (it wasn’t) and he was also in New Jersey watching thousands of Muslims cheering the collapse of the towers (they didn’t).
    This guy is a total and complete fraud.
    If I were running for the Presidency, I would hammer on that relentlessly. Point out every instance where he is not what he claims to be. From his fake tan to his phony business acumen.
    It’s only when sycophants like Paul and Drew begin to realize that he isn’t what they dream he is that his base will begin to crumble.

  5. 95 South says:

    So, Trump was down there but not a first responder, just like he said.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @95 South:
    He was there…days later…dressed in a suit and tie, talking on the phone.
    He was there like Mexico is paying for the wall. It’s just not true.
    He’s a phony. And if you buy his shit, you are a fool.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    I think you overestimate Paul and Guarneri. Ten years from now, when Trump is being released from NY state custody, and is firmly ensconced as the worst president in US history, they will still believe. They have no choice now, they are all-in on a stupid, corrupt, racist traitor and they will never allow themselves to face reality. They can’t. It would take a whole bunch of courage and integrity to admit this much stupidity. Do you think either of them has even a shred of courage or integrity? They’re a pair of Lindsay Grahams, weak, pathetic, dishonored.

    This is what they don’t get. They think this is politics. They’re both too far into the cult to realize that in the world of decent society they have no place. But they’ve already got their swastika tattoos and it’s hard to remove those things.

    I don’t take shots at Guarneri thinking he’ll learn and grow, he’s a brain-dead cultie. It’s just an exercise in sadism now. Get up, have some coffee, expose Drew as weak and stoopid. Kind of gets my nasty out for the day, then I can work.

  8. dennis says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It’s only when sycophants like Paul and Drew begin to realize that he isn’t what they dream he is that his base will begin to crumble.

    Well, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, my namesake.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Even the most infatuated, love-sick, fools awaken to the truth…well most of them, anyway.
    You may be correct. They may be too far down the rabbit hole.

  10. CSK says:

    It’s a pretty good bet that none of the “news” sites that Trumpkins rely on (ZeroHedge, The Gateway Pundit, Conservative Treehouse, American Greatness, etc.) even reported this. Any other source is, of course, promulgating Fake News.

  11. 95 South says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I believe he was there and not a first responder, which is what he said. He knows what he air tasted like, and he saw the panic and heroism, and he didn’t claim anything more than that.

  12. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: The only thing that would discourage Cult45 would be if Trump were to suddenly turn into a thoughtful, rational, informed, and civilized adult.

  13. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I don’t think his supporters will grow disenchanted with Dennison unless the economy turns south, or he’s made to look like the fool he is in such an egregious and public a manner, there is no way for anyone to hide it or pretend it didn’t happen. And the latter would be only a temporary dip, until he finds another minority politician to insult.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    How long did it take for Roman Catholics to accept that their church facilitated and enjoyed child rape? Decades? And still most don’t believe it?

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Dude, Trump’s base isn’t going to crumble. The Pauls in it are too stupid to ever see what he is and the Drews don’t care as long as it makes you upset.

  16. Paul L. says:

    This President has always been a liar and a fabulist

    Just This President?
    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    He was there…days later…dressed in a suit and tie, talking on the phone.

    Why would Trump have to immediately run down to World Trade Center to help out on 9/11?
    Too bad there is no video of Trump at the time.
    Oh wait.

  17. CSK says:

    @Paul L.: Yeah, except that none of the “hundreds” of workers he claimed he sent ever showed up on site.

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @95 South:
    Half of NYC was there…gawkers…you see them every day on the highway when there is an accident…it doesn’t make them all fuqing EMT’s.
    He was there days later giving a TV interview blocks away.
    He tried to associate himself with heroism…of which he has never shown any…the guy that dodged the draft with phony bone spurs, the guy that claimed he would run into a live shooter event with his bare hands.
    He’s a phony, and you are a fool.

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:
    He gave a TV interview two days later and blocks away?
    This is what you have wet dreams about?
    Yo’re an idiot.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.: @95 South:
    I was on the beach at Normandy. I should gather together some of the survivors and talk about my own contribution. Seven decades after the shooting stopped.

    I was at lots and lots of exciting places: Gettysburg, the WW1 trenches, the Hürtgen Forest, Dachau… come to think of it, I was also at Ground Zero. I walked right by it on my way to meet my publisher.

  21. Teve says:

    @CSK: he also claimed he was going to give a bunch of money to 9/11 charities. I haven’t seen any records saying he did or didn’t, but considering that his own charity was shut down for what New York officials called “a shocking pattern of illegality.” I think anybody with an IQ above 85 can probably guess how that turned out. 🙂

  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    OK, OK…
    95 South and Paul have proven you all correct.
    The sycophants will NEVER give up on their orange-skinned comb-over idol.

  23. 95 South says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: You hear that, Paul L? “Yo’re an idiot.” Strong words.

  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @95 South:
    Yo’re both idiots.
    You pray to a fake-tanned idol…and you’re going to pick on my typos?
    What a maroon.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    Trumpaloons: people up to their necks in a hog wallow pointing out that you have a spot on your tie.

  26. Gustopher says:

    I think I am now willing to support the first Democratic Presidential hopeful who, when asked about Trump’s insane or racist tweet du jour, gets exasperated, and says “the man is a pedophile, why should I waste my time on his nonsense?” before moving on to talk about something important. And then just doubles down on it, and makes that their default response going forward.

    The mixture of heinous insult and utter dismissal, and all the stories about whether so-and-so was being properly respectful of the office by calling the occupant a pedophile, and all the stories about whether Trump is a pedophile or more of an ephebophile…

    Our social discourse is going to hit new levels of awful by the end of this campaign, and the foreboding sense of dread is just killing me. Let’s just get it over with.

  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Ok…so I had to look up “ephebophile”…so you win.
    Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t yet reached some form of that dismissal. Maybe “admitted sexual offender” instead of “pedophile”.

  28. Kathy says:

    After the September 2017 quakes in Mexico city, lots of people volunteered to help with search and rescue, and with early cleanup. This varied from those who spent days at wrecked buildings hauling rubble away, to those who took food and water to the search and rescue personnel.

    I’m willing to bet Dennison did nothing comparable. Showing up to look at the wreck or giving interviews near ground zero hardly counts as “being with” the first responders at the scene.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    Showing up to look at the wreck or giving interviews near ground zero hardly counts as “being with” the first responders at the scene.

    It does if you are a member of the cult.

  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    President Donald Trump made up a story that he narrowly avoided boarding a helicopter that crashed and killed five people, according to a former longtime executive of the Trump Organization.
    Barbara Res, who was the company’s vice president in charge of construction, recalled to MSNBC’s Ari Melber on Tuesday how three Trump casino executives and two crew members were killed in the October 1989 disaster. They were returning to Atlantic City from promoting a boxing match in New York City when the aircraft went down.
    “Sources said Trump himself was scheduled to be on the flight but decided at the last minute he was too busy to leave New York,” the UPI news wire reported at the time.
    That was a “total, total lie” promoted by Trump, said Res.
    “It wasn’t very long” after the crash “that he was putting out the word that he was supposed to be on that plane or that helicopter, and he didn’t at the last minute, he got pulled off the plane,” Res said. “In other words, he’d be dead now.”
    Res condemned Trump for “making himself part of the story, a very important story and undermining the fact that three people died, just like he is undermining what happened in 9/11 by exploiting it.”

  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:
  32. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Trump built Noah’s ark and made all the Corinthians pay for it.#LostTrumpHistory

    5:03 PM – Jul 29, 2019


  33. CSK says:

    @Teve: Would that be all two Corinthians?

  34. Mister Bluster says:

    There may be three…

    In 1 Corinthians, Paul refers to a still earlier letter he had written to the men of that city:
    1 Corinthians 5:9. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.

    This early letter (which we might call “o Corinthians”) is not, however, necessarily lost. Parts of it may have been combined by later editors with the two epistles we do have.
    This very first letter, o Corinthians, which is not preserved separately in the canon, apparently elicited some sort of response, and a letter was brought to Paul in Ephesus by some of the leading men of the Corinthian church.
    Asimov’s Guide to the Bible

  35. Teve says:

    The Corinthians were idolaters, their women spoke in church, they were fornicators, and some I assume were good people.

  36. CSK says:

    @Teve: Okay, I just laughed out loud.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: And you’re just now realizing it? Ah well, hope springs eternal. 😀

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I think that the opponent should go with “perv” or “pervy.” “Pedophile” is fightin’ words and the other is even more dismissive. But either one is okay as far as I’m concerned.

  39. MarkedMan says:

    [Warning: Very Harry Potter Specific Analogy]
    People who see Trump as anything but a moronic whiny drama queen are the type of people who read all 5000 pages of the Harry Potter saga and came away thinking it was a story about the greatest wizard of all time: Gildaroy Lockhart.

  40. 95 South says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Trump lies all the time. You’re the one looking stupid if you accuse him of lying when he’s telling the truth. You won’t win anyone if you look crazy.

  41. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “perv” and the like leave room to respond with a worse insult. Just go straight to the worst thing imaginable. Any insult response sounds week.

    And it’s no worse than calling various Reps. “UnAmerican”, and saying that they have loyalty to Al Qaeda.

    Plus, are you sure he isn’t a pedophile?

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Since it’s just a smack to transition to another more important point, I don’t care, but I can see why someone else might.

    I’ve no information from which to make an evaluation about pedophilia, but it doesn’t matter as much to me as he’s unqualified irrespective of any personality faults or assets. Always was, always will be, MAGAots don’t care, so obsessing about it is gilding the lily.