TV presenter Jon Stewart tore into Congress Tuesday during a hearing for the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The comedian wasn’t laughing at all, deeming himself “angry” over low attendance by the House Judiciary Committee, during an appeal to pass a bill reauthorising the VCF to provide benefits and health care to injured and sickened firefighters, first responders and other survivors of the 2001 terrorist attack for the next 70 years.
With many ailing first responders in attendance, the former Daily Show host said, “As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.”
Read more: The amazing story of Steve Buscemi on 9/11
Stewart called it “an embarrassment to the country” and a ”stain on this institution” that about half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present. "You should be ashamed of yourselves for not being here,” said the star, who found it “beyond my comprehension” why the “bill is not unanimous consent.”
He railed, “None of these people want to be here,” referring to the first responders — one about to begin a 69th round of chemotherapy — they were there to get the compensation they deserve.
He admitted, “I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I’m angry and you should be, too.”
Stewart slammed lawmakers for their “hypocrisy” by commending the heroes of September 11, but not taking care of them as they suffer, many from various cancers, and die.
“There is not a person here — there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out, ‘never forget the heroes of 9/11; never forget their bravery; never forget what they did, what they gave to this country,’” Stewart said. “Well, here they are.”
Stewart, who seemed at tears at points, said the men and women “responded in five seconds — they did their jobs. With courage, grace, tenacity, humility," before adding, “Eighteen years later, do yours.”
He warned what is to happen if they didn’t: "More of these men and women are going to get sick and they're going to die,” he said, adding, “And I'm awfully tired of hearing this is a 'New York issue. Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America.”
Stewart, a longtime advocate for September 11 first responders and victims, received a standing ovation from the first responders. However, members of the committee insisted that attendance was actually “pretty good.”
Stewart’s speech has been praised by many on social media, including Jimmy Kimmel and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
thank you Jon Stewart, for making sure "never forget" isn't just a nice-sounding slogan https://t.co/mV6kcfLYGI— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) June 11, 2019
Perfect. Thank you, Jon Stewart. https://t.co/xZO2vBFgjj— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) June 11, 2019
Incredibly powerful. Bravo to Jon Stewart for speaking to Congress about the lack of funding for programs that are supposed to provide healthcare to 9/11 first responders. https://t.co/3Oea2KvO7R— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) June 11, 2019
This is an amazing, impassioned and powerful calling out of congress by Jon Stewart. Watch it all. https://t.co/qvzYXJuAST— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) June 11, 2019
Congress created the fund in 2001 to help those injured or sickened during the attacks, the rescue or in the subsequent cleanup process. However, the fund has faced financial problems — specifically insufficient funds to cover claims — and it is set to expire in December 2020.
By Suzy Byrne, Yahoo Entertainment