North America

Jon Stewart chokes up as he slams US Congress over treatment of 9/11 first responders

0:00

The former late-night host has given an emotional speech during a committee hearing aimed at continuing the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Former late-night host and comedian Jon Stewart has delivered a tearful speech to an almost empty US Congress committee hearing, slamming the government's treatment of first responders to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Speaking at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on ensuring the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund continues, Stewart - a long-time advocate for 9/11 first responders - broke down as he slammed a number committee members who did not show up for the hearing. 

"Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress," he said, pointing to a row of empty chairs.

Jon Stewart testifies in front of the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reauthorie the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Jon Stewart testifies in front of the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reauthorie the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

"Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one."

Multiple sick and injured first responders had earlier given emotional testimony as to why the Victim Compensation Fund should be extended.

The fund was created to provide financial assistance to anyone who suffered physical harm or the families of people killed as a result of the 2001 terror attack or during the removal of debris immediately after.

In 2015 former US President Barack Obama reauthorised the fund, allowing people to continue submitting claims until December 2020. In February this year, however, it was determined that funding for the VCF would be insufficient to pay all pending and projected claims.

Stewart steadies former NYPD Bomb Squad Detective Louis Alvarez, who contracted cancer working on Ground Zero after the September 11 attack.
Stewart steadies former NYPD Bomb Squad Detective Louis Alvarez, who contracted cancer working on Ground Zero after the September 11 attack.
EPA

"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. Well, here they are" former host of The Daily Show said.

"Shameful. It's an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren't here. But you won't be, because accountability doesn't appear to be something that occurs in this chamber."

In response to Stewart's angry plea, Republican congressman Steve Cohen defended the absence of his colleagues, explaining that they were attending other committee meetings.

Both Democrats and Republicans have said they would support a bill that extends the fund. 

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch