Published with permission from Media Matters for America.
Coinciding with the fifteenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, this week’s Sunday morning network talk shows dedicated a lot of their time to covering and reflecting on two stories: The 9/11 attacks, as well as the unfolding presidential campaign. If they had wanted to, the programs could have also examined the distinct overlap between those events. The shows could have spent time examining the unflattering examples of Donald Trump caught telling lies about Sept. 11, exaggerating about 9/11 and just being wildly inappropriate while discussing Sept. 11.
But the Sunday shows didn’t do that this week.
The Republican nominee lies about lots of things, but he seems to have a special proclivity for telling falsehoods about events surrounding America’s worst terror attack.
What made the complete lack of Sunday show coverage this week even more unusual was the fact that one day before, the New York Daily News published an exclusive investigation, reporting that the billionaire’s organization pocketed $150,000 in government aid after the attack because it claimed to have helped out locals. But the “government program was designed to help local businesses get back on their feet — not reimburse people for their charitable work,” the News reported. Plus, “It’s unclear what, if any, help Trump provided to those affected by 9/11.”
So that represented a 9/11 Trump controversy with a fresh news angle. But the News story produced no coverage on the Sunday shows.
Do you think that if on Saturday the Daily News had reported that the Clinton Foundation had unethically scooped up funds intended for terror attack victims in New York City, that yesterday’s Sunday talks shows would have completely ignored the stunning revelation?
The other new story that emerged about Trump and Sept. 11 was when Politico recently reported on a television interview Trump did on that deadly day in 2001. It was just hours after thousands of New York area residents lost their lives in the attack, and Trump, on live television, was noting that the 40 Wall Street building he owned was no longer the “second-tallest” in downtown Manhattan — it was the “tallest” … because the Twin Towers had just been toppled by terrorist hijackers.
— Ess (@ScottyLiterati) September 11, 2016
But not a mention of that on the Sunday shows.
This trend isn’t entirely new. Too often journalists have given Trump the benefit of the doubt when lying about 9/11-related events. Last December, when Trump began making the wholly unsubstantiated claim that the 9/11 attackers had “wives” living with them in the United States and sent them home prior to the attack, The New York Times reported Trump had become “fuzzy” about the facts and was “having trouble keeping some details straight about the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks.”
One key fact Trump had “trouble” with? “There is no evidence that the hijackers had wives in the United States, shipped them home or even told them of the plot in advance.” What’s “fuzzy” about that?
Again though, no mention on this week’s Sunday shows about Trump’s completely fabricated claims about the Sept. 11 hijackers and their “wives.”
There was also no discussion yesterday about Trump’s wild claim that he had lost “hundreds” of friends in the Sept. 11 attack.
As The Daily Beast previously documented:
Two days after Donald Trump claimed that he “lost hundreds of friends” at the World Trade Center as a result of the 9/11 attack, his campaign continued to ignore a Daily Beast request that he name even one.
With silence comes the possibility that Trump told the most reprehensible lie of the campaign, just a few breaths from when he called both Sen. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush liars.
By his math, Trump is trying to tell us that at least one in 10 of the 2,983 who died on 9/11 were his friends.
The Daily Beast also highlighted how, in the wake of the terror attacks, Trump reportedly went on Howard Stern’s radio show and promised to donate $10,000 to the Twin Towers Fund, a charity set up to benefit the families of first responders who were killed on 9/11. “Despite his pledge, the Trump Foundation shows no donations at all to the Twin Tower Fund,” the Daily Beast reported.
Meanwhile, at a rally in Ohio last November, Trump told supporters, “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.”
As the Associated Press noted, Trump’s apartment is located approximately four miles from the World Trade Center site.
Trump has also claimed that he “helped a little bit” with clearing rubble after the attacks:
Trump claims he helped clear rubble and search for survivors on 9/11: pic.twitter.com/G3yodnBMK2
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) April 19, 2016
And of course, what was one of the most famous Trump lies of 2015? That he’d seen “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City when the Twin Towers went down.
But it wasn’t true, obviously. If “thousands and thousands” of people had cheered in the streets and on the rooftops of an American city on 9/11, that would have been news around the world. But it never happened, as NJ.com concluded, noting “The reason Trump’s comments are so offensive is that he is suggesting sympathy for terrorism is broadly shared among Muslims in America when in fact it is a fringe sentiment. It is the moral equivalent of smearing all white Americans for the actions of violent white supremacists.”
Indeed, the Trump lie represents a particularly vicious smear meant to malign an entire culture and religion; to make it seem like there’s a dangerous fifth column within the United States ready to rise up and wage war with America.
Over the last year, Trump has created a cacophony of lies and self-aggrandizing falsehoods about one of the most important and sorrowful days in American history. (Who does that?)
Still, on the fifteenth anniversary of Sept. 11 and with Trump at the center of a presidential campaign, the Sunday talk shows this week turned away from the Trump ugliness.